Six years ago today – my first time holding Baby B, celebrating his first full week in the world. This visit, especially compared to the tumult of the one less than twenty-hours before it, was serene. It marked the start of a new normal for me in those early weeks. More frequent visits, once I was cleared to drive and could make the trip on my own. Still tentative and hesitant in how I related to my own children….asking the nurses’ permission to touch, to change diapers; waiting for James’ evening visit to hold one – in those early days, we were limited to one twenty minute kangaroo session a day, so we alternated. I was grateful for twins so that I didn’t have to wait forty-eight hours to hold my child.
But even amid the stress and fear and uncertainty of those 62 days in 2011, there were these moments of peace. Contentment. Joy. Getting to change my first diaper – and watching James tackle that challenge for the first time ever through the small holes of the isolette (added +32 difficulty points, at least). Seeing the signs on the boys’ stations each time they joined a new weight class.
Discovering that these tiny little people had their favorites on the staff – Robert’s first love was nurse Dara….Watching them start to watch me through the acrylic of the isolette, becoming more aware of their environment.
There are so many things I wish I had known when I was in the thick of it. But at the same time, the NICU experience is so completely individual. I read the thinkpieces when they come across my feed from other NICU vets, and often I have to stop because they don’t resonate. Those experiences weren’t mine, and their advice to others rings hollow. I don’t think it’s possible to universalize the trauma of NICU, and those attempts to do so would’ve made 2011 me feel all the more isolated.
And yet here I am, still trying to put my experience into words and share it. Maybe there is a book in this. But I think maybe it needs to be polyvocal. To show that there isn’t a single experience of this kind of trauma.