Dear NICU Mama,
Hi, fellow NICU Mama here! I want to start off by saying, be prepared for the most challenging and rewarding journey. My son, Matthew, was in the NICU at Loma Linda Children’s Hospital for the first 12 days of his life due to being born early at 34 weeks. I want to offer some encouragement and insight that I wish I had when my son was in the NICU. There are so many emotions you may be feeling and it is completely ok to feel all of them. But most importantly, to grow and learn from them. There are so many things that God has taught me through our NICU journey, may He be your strength and peace during this time, like He was for ours.
Let’s start with exhaustion. You want to spend every minute being close to your baby. You want to hold, feed, cuddle, and kiss your baby but you are exhausted. You just gave birth and have healing of your own to do. Since Matthew was born early, I felt as if I suffered a loss. Even though Matthew was alive, I felt I missed out on a normal pregnancy and had to grieve the missed full term home birth plan. I knew I should be thankful he was alive but felt sad he wasn’t in the womb anymore. The emotional battle between wanting to spend every moment next to Matthew and needing to sleep was exhausting. Having to leave him every night and crying myself to sleep was exhausting. Being disappointed because I didn’t change his first diaper, or nurse him for his first feeding, or wasn’t the first person he saw when he woke up was exhausting. Thinking about not being there for him when he cried was exhausting. Coordinating visits and being mindful of family was exhausting. I felt helpless even though there were so many people helping us. It was tough battling through the exhaustion and helplessness because what you need is rest, but you feel like you can’t. Not just spiritual and emotional rest, but physical as well. Though you may be weary, may the Lord strengthen you according to His word. Psalm 119:28. Rely on Him for strength, give Him your burdens, and allow Him to carry you. Let go of the burden and let God lift you. Allow yourself to sleep and rest in Him!
Not only is the weight of exhaustion and helplessness heavy but there are also heavy feelings of guilt. I remember replaying moments of the pregnancy and birth, wondering what went wrong. Did I do something to cause this? I had to realize that even though the NICU was a place I never thought I needed or even wanted, it was the best place for my son to be to grow and be healthy. Even though I wasn’t with him all the time, he had an amazing army of people praying for him and a team of doctors and nurses who cared for him. The number of Matthew’s cheerleaders and people who cared for him grew due to his stay in the NICU. Each doctor and nurse had a role in Matthew’s life and they were placed intentionally by the Lord. Your baby is not in the wrong place. Your baby is in the right place to grow and be loved.
It can all be overwhelming. Our time as a family after birth was short so I didn’t have time to really look at Matthew. I was overwhelmed with guilt when I saw his face for the first time in the NICU because I didn’t know what he would look like. The guilt and helplessness grew as I saw the other babies in the same room as him. Some babies were younger and some were older. I felt guilty for feeling the way I did when there were babies that had more growing to do than Matthew. I felt that Matthew’s time in the NICU was really short and I shouldn’t feel traumatized or upset. Whether your baby is in the NICU for days, weeks, or months, your special journey is valid. There is no need to compare or feel shame, each baby has a plan and purpose created by God. Instead of setting your goal to be going home, set your mind towards growth. What is most important is that your baby is healthy. Choose to focus on how the Lord is using your baby’s journey to glorify Him. Do not lose hope or feel defeated, we serve an amazing God!
There are so many more emotions and thoughts to process through, but I want to end with this: JOY. Do not allow the NICU to steal your joy. May you rejoice in the Lord for all that you, your baby, and family will overcome. May each breath your baby takes, assisted or on their own, be praises of joy to Christ. May each day be joyful thanks to Christ. May each milestone be moments of rejoicing in Christ. May you look back at the NICU days not with fear but with joy, strength, and thanksgiving. Talk to someone, share your feelings, and allow others to encourage and pray for you. I felt that Matthew’s NICU stay were the longest days of my life. I avoided thinking about it because there was too much to think about. As I write this letter, I have realized the good the Lord has done during that time. How he broke me down and built me back, stronger in Him. I pray the same for you. I pray for the testimony He is creating to refine you. I pray for His glory to shine brightly through this journey and that you would be forever changed for His better.
P.S. If you would like prayer or encouragement, let me know! I have a heart for NICU & preemie mamas and would love to come alongside you during this journey.