Sunday, June 30, 2013

The NICU Perspective

I would never wish my NICU experiences on any parents, even those whose priorities seem so unbalanced that they could use a good shaking. I also would never, ever wish my experiences away, because so much of what defines my little family is wrapped up in it. My husband and I were fortunate enough to have a happy marriage before our babies; we genuinely just like each other and enjoy our time together. But, now we have this whole volume of experiences, some dark and gut-wrenching and others that are ridiculous and hilarious. This volume unites us. We have despaired together and come out on the other side, and we know it. I also feel that having such tiny babies has given us an appreciation for the mundane and boring, like a quiet day at home with healthy kids. Before the NICU, maybe I would have been restless, but after I became a different person, I feel blessed to have a whole beautiful, quiet, peaceful day ahead of us. That kind of perspective has changed everything about my husband and me, and I hope it will translate to our kids. I hope that they will feel loved and cherished in  a way that only parents who believed they would lose you could. I want them to know that not only are all God's creatures blessings on this earth with purpose and gifts to share, but they are unique miracles with a reason for being. When you have a 2.5 pound baby and you see the miracle of such a tiny living being right there in front of you, you have no choice but to reassess your priorities in life. For all that, I am immeasurably grateful.

But, with that perspective also comes an impatience for some of the insipid things I hear parents say. They complain about things like not nursing their baby immediately after birth or about their doctor not following their strictly outlined birth plans (as if babies are even aware of a prescribed birth plan). They complain about mothers-in-law who helped too much or too little with their babies, or they fret about having a boy when they wanted a girl, or vice versa. They complain about working mothers who never see their babies or stay-at-home moms whose lives depend on their kids. They complain about other mothers who nursed too long or not at all.  And this is just in the child-bearing world. Goodness knows what I will discover when our kids are in school! I hope that I'm an empathetic person. I sincerely try to hear out the fears of others and to give them a listening ear when I have no other solutions to offer. It's just that I can't help but wonder if people knew my perspective would they keep yammering on about things that seem like minor complaints to me. Are we so removed from our parents' and grandparents' generations when many women died in childbirth and many more babies died in their first year of life? Have we forgotten that life is tough, that it has always been tough, and that only the toughest and luckiest human beings survive life's challenges? I try so hard to be patient, but really I am appalled. At the end of the day, if you had a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby, haven't you hit the jackpot? If you're loving your baby to the best of your ability, shouldn't we all be supporting you on your parenting journey whether it's breastfeeding or formula you choose? Sometimes I wonder where the kindness has gone, why are we not more grateful and less judgmental. And why are mothers the most critical of other mothers when they should be the most supportive?

I don't know what the answer is. All I know is that sometimes I have to mentally stand on my head, which is quite a feat since I have no balance or gymnastic-ability whatsoever, to keep from blurting out, "Yes, but we are all so lucky! Just look at these kids we have!" I said to my husband the other day how grateful I was for him and that we share the NICU Perspective. I told him I wished I could share it with other moms, and he said you can't force it on someone else. And he's right. Sometimes you have to watch your two-pound baby fight to breathe, sucking in his lungs so much he's too tired to do anything but sleep and breathe. Sometimes you have to witness that with your own eyes in order to see how beautiful we all are.

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