Something must happen in the NICU that changes people. Maybe it’s the constant alarms and beeping. Maybe it’s the oddly soothing bubbling of a high humidity CPAP machine. Maybe it’s the sight of a tiny human sleeping peacefully amid more wires and tubes than you can count.
When Little Miss Minion cries, I am oddly torn. Part of me is unhappy because there is a problem that is making her upset. But another part of me, the NICU Mom, is happy. Her heart is beating, her brain is working, telling her there’s a problem, her lungs are at full capacity, and her arms and legs flail angrily, able to punch the air with impressive force. The NICU Mom knows that things could have been much different with one week less gestation, with only one round of steroid shots for lung development, or even worse if no one had noticed anything and just continued blindly on for 3 more months.
NICU moms don’t take anything for granted. First real smiles, first laughs, first rolling over–these things have happened to us in the last couple of days. We’ve had to wait longer than other parents, who probably just checked off these milestones from their lists as another normal occurrence. But we know that our wait is worth it, and that some NICU parents won’t get to see their babies smile or laugh or leave the hospital at all. Even when your own child is doing well and her alarms remain silent, the monitors constantly announce that there is another baby who isn’t. And on your baby’s bad days, it was their alarms reminding another family to be grateful for the silence.