Today’s life lesson; PTSD is internal. I have known for years that it is real, and painful, but today I learned that it is internalized. It requires no thought or trigger to paralyze you. Four years ago my youngest child was born in crisis. She then spent 9 days in the NICU. Fortunately she is fine now. But those initial NICU days have left an indelible mark on me.
Four years ago today I discharged myself from the Hospital where her emergency c-section occurred and made my way to the hospital where she was in the NICU. Four years ago tonight, after 57ish hours of waiting I was able to hold my baby girl. The following days were filled with fear, tests, needles, pumping, and more fear before finally hearing the glorious words that we were being discharged.
For NICU families PTSD is quite common. Those initial days after a baby’s birth should be filled with joy, excitement and dreams for the future. But for families in the NICU, whether for hours or for days, those initial days are filled with anxiety, guilt, sadness and fear for the future. Instead of happily getting to know your new little love; you are getting to know them with wires attached, with nurses looking over your shoulder. The incessant sounds of beeping pervade your mind, intermingling with the cries of the babies whose families’ can’t be there, usually because they have been there for so long. For us, as we counted the hours that turned into days, I met moms whose days had turned to weeks and now they were counting months. And I saw families wishing for days or months in the NICU who instead were met with tragic loss of their beloved babies.
We are lucky. We are blessed. Though everything was scary and awful, we only spent 9 days in the NICU. And our little one is happy and smart and healthy. And while today I have tried my best to marvel at her beauty, to clean my house or sit by our pool, somewhere inside me is the frightened mother who didn’t know what was wrong with her baby, why she had seizures, why she was so small, why her levels were off and why her platelets kept dropping. Today my mind wants to cry, wants to run, wants to hide.
Be gentle with us NICU parents. Even those of us sitting with our healthy happy little ones. We know our outcomes are good. We know we are lucky. We are beyond thankful. But we are scarred. And sometimes, perhaps seeing a new baby, or perhaps the date, perhaps a sound, or a smell, our scars surface and no matter where we are or how much time has passed we are back there in those initial days, a scared and frightened new parent whose world feels nothing like what we expected.