A couple weeks after Charlie’s birth, this opinion piece popped up in the Washington Post. I was furious. My baby was fighting for her life in the NICU and this guy has the luxury of worrying about his baby being a Nats fan? Even now, there is so much emotion stirred up simply by writing about it. Yes, it continues to anger me. A year later, I realize (among other things) it is also sadness, envy, and jealousy. Honestly, I am not even sure if those emotions are directed at the author.
I was reminded of this article from a post on a preemie board. Every now and then, I see posts from other preemie moms that ask if it is normal to have a hard time conversing with full term parents. From my perspective, the answer is a HELL YES! However, it has improved over time for me.
My first experience with a term mom after Charlie’s birth was a disaster. I attended a NICU parents’ class. A friend of a NICU mom brought her term infant to class. I tried to focus on the class. Unfortunately, I was focused on that baby. The baby started crying five minutes into class. This upset me. It was not because the baby was crying but because the baby COULD cry. At the time, Charlie was not strong enough to cry. Then, the mom started kissing and loving on the baby to calm the baby. At the time, I hated that mom. It was if someone was gorging themselves in a room full of starving people. I struggled to keep from crying. I had to leave before the class was over. It was too much for me.
Fast forward to a year later. Recently, I have joined a moms group of mostly full term moms. A large portion of my mourning and grieving is in the past. Still, there are the occasional difficult days. Over the past year, I have seen how far she has come. I spend more time thinking about what she can do rather than what she can not. It was difficult the first time I saw her with term kids. After the first time, it was easier. I knew what to expect and it was not an issue. The other mothers in the group have great ideas, are kind, and are interesting. The other kids do not even notice what Charlie struggles with. To them, she is just another kid to play with. I was fortunate enough to find a good fit with the moms group. Additionally, I heal more as time passes.
Preemie moms (and other NICU moms), you are not alone in your difficulty in relating to the world outside of the NICU. Be patient with yourselves. Rest assured that it does get better with time. For me, I reached a point that I realized I was enriched more than I was bothered by other (non NICU) moms. I am not promising that there will not be those moments where I struggle (that is why I lurk on preemie boards). However, we eventually found our place in the post NICU world.
This picture was taken by Monica DeMariano who is in my moms group. I absolutely adore it.