The Full Story
Becoming a mother is the strangest surge of emotions— a mysterious conglomerate of pride, fear, excitement, hope, and awe.
Whichever way you become a mother, whether through giving birth, adoption, surrogacy, etc., there is always an act of taking inventory of emotional capacity: I am decidedly making room in all aspects of my life for this small person who I’ve never met.
I didn’t come into motherhood in the traditional way. It was thrust upon me to when I was a little over halfway through a tumultuous pregnancy. Magnolia Kate, my daughter, was a mere 1 pounds and 7 ounces at birth.
The NICU is daunting at first look. The wires, the beeping, the isolette regulating your small baby’s body temperature. It’s all a lot to take in for an average person, even more for someone who has just had several layers of her body cut open and sewn back together. When I first looked at my tiny baby, I felt completely overwhelmed. It’s hard with an early delivery to not feel like it’s your body’s fault that it’s no longer your baby’s home. I wouldn’t wish NICU motherhood on anyone, but it is a completely unique experience to watch your baby develop how she would in the womb, but right in front of your eyes. Your nurses and medical team become like family because you see them so often.
What you don’t anticipate about becoming a NICU mom is your resilience. Every conversation with a provider, every time a nurse has to help you hold your baby through a tangle of wires and machines, every time you spiral down a google rabbit hole, all of this prepares you for the second you walk out of the NICU with your baby in your arms. You learn to advocate for your child in a way you didn’t anticipate possible. You’re suddenly uniquely equipped with medical terms and vocabulary you never knew existed and a keen eye for exactly how your child develops.
Most importantly, though, the deep wells of fear and sorrow about your daughter spending the first 3 months of her life in a space that is not home eventually run dry and are replaced with a joy that surpasses comprehension. Even the middle of the night feeds don’t bother you because you’re just so immensely grateful to have your baby under the same roof.
Some say the NICU is not for the faint of heart, but I disagree. The NICU is a host to so many different kinds of parents, all brought together by this shared experience and a goal of bringing their baby home as quickly as is medically feasible. We each navigate the emotions brought on by the experience differently. There is no “right” way except through.
The Mother’s Day Project and what they offer is monumentally important and that cannot be overstated. As a NICU mom, you are thirsty for any kind of solidarity and for people who care about your well-being and aren’t just desperate for updates about your kid— you’re happy to give those updates, but the interactions that are a glass of cold water for your soul are those in which people make it evident that they care deeply about your health, too. The Mother’s Day Project earnestly sees women who are working through something traumatic and gives them a glimmer of life before the anthology of medical knowledge and daily hospital visits. It gives them the chance to care for themselves in tangible ways, if only for a moment, and that is completely invaluable.