As a mom of micro preemie twins I know first hand how traumatizing it is to leave your babies at the hospital. It is unbelievably hard to leave your babies in the NICU. I couldn’t stay in the Ronald McDonald house because we lived too close so once I was considered well enough to go home I was discharged without my babies.
Adam drove me straight to our pharmacy (because he was determined I was going to take pain medication after having a c-section) and I was on the verge of panic. I couldn’t believe I had just left my two helpless baby girls and I couldn’t think clearly enough to plan when I could go back. The pharmacist probably thought I was high or at the very least thought I shouldn’t be getting pain meds because came to the counter and asked if I was ok. I busted out crying and said, “I just had a c-section and my twin girls are only 24 weeks old, and I just had to leave the hospital!” Looking back I could tell he kinda regretted asking me but he was incredibly kind about it and said he understood because his baby had been born early.
The next 104 days were just as stressful. Thankfully, I was thinking a little clearer (aka I wasn’t on pain killers) during the rest of Phoenix and Thea’s stay but the stress and worry and that horrible sinking feeling every time I left without them never went away.
All that to say that I’m about to make a statement that can be pretty unpopular in preemie groups.
Neither the age of the baby (babies) nor the length of the NICU stay determines how hard the NICU experience is on a parent.
I don’t care if your baby was born at exactly 40 weeks and she had a 10 day NICU stay. I don’t care if your babies were born at 36 weeks and had a 1 night NICU stay (like Llewyn and Cohen did). I don’t care if your baby was born at 24 weeks, 3 days and had a 104 day NICU stay (like Thea).
IT IS STRESSFUL. It is hard. It is terrifying. Leaving the child you spent weeks and months praying and planning for in the hands of strangers (no matter how qualified) is the hardest thing you’ll ever do.
Don’t compare your NICU journey to another person’s simply because of the age or size of the baby. Encourage your fellow NICU parents no matter how long their baby remains in the hospital. Be kind no matter the size of the baby belonging to your NICU neighbors (literally or sitting behind an electronic screen).
Everyone handles life differently. So don’t belittle or shame another NICU parent. Their journey will be different from yours but it doesn’t make their journey any less stressful. And the differences don’t make any NICU child’s life story less important.
My NICU Babies:
Phoenix (1lb 14oz) & Thea (1lb 13oz) born at 24 weeks, 3 days
Llewyn (6lb 13oz) & Cohen (6lbs 12oz) born at 36 weeks.