As Moms, we've all been new. We've doubted our abilities as good moms. We rejoice in our baby's every milestone. We learn and we have personal victories and an equal amount of failures. We've all sat there and said, "I can't believe that's my baby. I made that".
But NICU moms are different. We have a camaraderie that I have seldom seen in non-NICU moms. We've gone to war and come back a different person. We swap stories proudly but can empathize with each other. I mean really, truly feel with them in that moment.
NICU moms never know the joys of lying our babies on our bare chest moments after birth. We'll never share a hospital room. We will never know what it's like to be wheeled out of the hospital while Daddy carries the infant car seat out the doors to begin your life as a family.
No. Our experience is much different than a non-NICU mom. And as I speak to other NICU moms, I learn we all have similar stories. Our bodies, the bodies that were created to conceive and grow new life, fails us.
We understand the enormity of milestones. While an ounce in weight gain may seem less than spectacular to a non-NICU mom, to us an ounce can make the difference in your baby moving one step closer to home or not. A 3ml increase in intake is always a huge deal.
NICU moms become accustomed to the dings, bings and beeps of the monitors. We know the ranges of heart rate, respiratory rate and oxygen saturation. We know what oxygen saturation is and why it's important. We become experts in our baby's medical treatment.
We change diapers amidst wires. We do this while changing our babies in what can only be described as a salad bar. Hoping and praying the wires don't land in the dirty diaper.
We know what it's like to have to ask to take your baby out of the isolette. To wait while some one else fixes your baby's bottle. To have someone watching your every move with your own baby.
We have gone through the emotional torture of leaving the hospital without that little bundle of joy. It's pretty weird, ya know. You walk into a hospital one day, and there's this little person growing inside you. A little person that only you know. You know his kicks, his rolls and even his sleep patterns. He knows what your heart beat sounds like. Then one day you have a baby and leave him behind. Not forever, but you are leaving your baby, in someone else's care. We've all experienced the stab in the gut walking into the nursery at home and staring at an empty crib, clothes that are waiting to be worn.
We often become over-protective. In our eyes, those little people living in our house, will always be those fragile little babies.
The NICU changes you. It changes the woman you are and the Mom you are destined to be. You learn how strong you are capable of being and you learn your breaking point. Do I wish that I would have had my dream birth experience? Of course! But I have learned to embrace my experience and appreciate the woman and mother that it has made me.