Last night, I finally got the courage to read the journal I kept while my son was in the NICU. For three years, I've avoided it, but it wasn't as painful as I thought it would be--probably because we just spent another two months in the NICU. For some reason, the first NICU stay was terribly traumatic, while the second stay was difficult but in a weird way also like a reunion. We had so many more friends there the second time, and the doctors and nurses treated us with respect, probably because we were on our second tour. And we were much more patient and understanding of the routines of the NICU and all the waiting you have to do.
So, the only part of the entire journal that really got to me was reading my very last entry:
"Oh, you sweet little boy, I can't even begin to think about all the things we'll do together and all the fun we'll have because it breaks my heart to wait even one more day. I hope you know you're loved, that we only want what's best for you, and that we can't wait to show you life is so much more than the inside of a hospital. Let us pray today is the beginning of the end because I am just raw with missing you. Love you, Angel. --Mom"
J came home six days later.
If you can bear it, keep a journal while you're in the NICU. I think we did an even better job with my daughter, but we tried to document all the high and low points for both kids. We even kept a tally of their weight day by day and a list of all the nurses they had. I hope their journal is a window into their beginning for them, and while they were in the hospital, it gave me an outlet to express some of my hopes and fears and also to keep busy while I was sitting by their isolettes.
Even if the NICU stay is gut-wrenching, you can take however long you need before you open those pages again. Maybe you never do, but I think a journal gives our preemies an invaluable understanding about where they come from and why we are the way we are as parents. Are parents of preemies still a little different when their kids are big? I don't know. But, I know I'm a different person from the woman who started this journey three years ago, and I hope for my children that the journals I kept for them will be a reminder of my love for them, even in their earliest days when they didn't weigh as much as a bag of grapes!