For many people, the acronym “NICU” isn’t one they have to say more than a handful of times in their lives. It never becomes a concrete place. It’s never stored in their phones as a contact. It’s never the thing keeping them from truly being parents to their newborn baby.
There are some who never even know what “NICU” stands for.
Then there are those who’s friend or family member enters the NICU world with the birth of a child. They see it. They hear about it. They try to understand it.
And then there are the parents who, warned or not, have their babies whisked away for various reasons, and they live it.
Since Oaklee’s 69 day stay in the NICU (of which we were warned about given our pregnancy), I’ve gained and re-gained friends who can say, “Yes, I’ve been there too.” Almost immediately every time we take out a ruler – whose baby was smaller, whose baby was born earlier, whose NICU stay was longer – to know just on what level this comrade can relate. I’ll admit, given our situation, my husband and I struggle to consider a baby “premature” if they did not have to spend time in the NICU or if they were born after 34 weeks.
But the truth is, if you’ve had a child in the NICU, you’ve seen something you can’t unsee. Even when my child was on the up and up, I sobbed listening to the grandma sing Jesus Loves Me to the three pound baby whom doctors had been swarming just hours before as he came out of surgery. Even when my child was coming home, I watched a mom and dad spend their last day with the daughter they’d never bring home. While our NICU stay was long, I truly believe you could have the peachiest, little NICU stay and still be changed by your experience. If your child has been in the NICU, your child has been a patient in an entire area of a hospital dedicated to saving the lives of the freshest of babes, often too fresh. The things you see, the vibes you feel, the stories you hear… you don’t get these anywhere else.
NICU stays end on all sorts of levels of positivity and negativity, but each one changes the people involved.
I hope your experience with it is limited to our story or the stories of friends or family members who’ve already done their time. It’s NICU Awareness Day, but I pray you never have to be aware of what that world looks like.
Still, should you ever find yourself there, I wish I could remind you daily that God gives life out of muck and mire. It doesn’t always look like it did for us – the literal life of our daughter – but He’s there, and He has purpose.