When Charlie was in the NICU, it was an incredibly stressful, lonely, and isolating time for me. People did not know what to say. Most people either did not say anything or said something completely thoughtless (and painful). The exception to this were my friends. I have a handful of friends that I love dearly. Their caring gestures and kind words frequently overwhelmed me.
In particular, there are two people that come to mind when I think back to my days as a NICU mom. They figuratively held my hand as I learned to navigate the strange new world I suddenly found myself in.
Chronologically, the first of these friends was Logan. She was in the room next to me on the High Risk unit. During that time, I was on strict bed rest so I did not actually get to meet her. I would pass her room on the mornings that I was wheeled out of my room for tests. Sometimes our eyes would meet through the open door to her room. We would silently wave or nod at each other on those occasions. The only reason that I remember those gestures is because our paths crossed again in the NICU a few weeks later. Logan was accompanied by her mom. Together, we had become somewhat of a NICU family.
It was great to have friends that were as weary of that hospital as I was. We would make each other laugh about regularly occurring annoyances, we attended classes together, visited each other’s baby, sent text messages when the other was absent, and shared helpful hospital tips. I was lucky to find Logan and her mom during a time that I so desperately needed them. Two months into Charlie’s NICU stay, our constant companionship came to an end when Charlie was transfered to another hospital’s NICU. We continue to text each other regularly. I hope to see Logan and her mom at the NICU reunion (if not sooner).
The NICU that Charlie was transfered to had private rooms. It was an amazing NICU. My husband said at that NICU “Charlie felt like our baby.” I could ramble on forever about how great the NICU was but I will save that for another post.
My ritual of sitting by Charlie’s side continued. It even increased because there was a place for me to sleep in Charlie’s room. During this time, I started emailing my friend Sally. She was in the midst of the adoption process. We found common ground with our families’ extraordinary beginnings.
When I wrote, I told her about Charlie, how she came early, and about NICU life. She told me about the adoption process and what it was like to be waiting for a baby. We discussed and shared our ups and downs. We joked about the absurdities of our situations. In writing my emails to her, I understood my situation better and I somehow grew stronger. I was amazed by how compassionate and empathetic she was. She is one of the very few that understood what having a preemie was like without actually having a preemie.
Finally, the day came that Charlie was discharged home. I could not wait to tell Sally about it. Strangely enough, I did not hear from Sally that day. I decided to give her some space. I assumed that she was experiencing that painful jealousy and envy I previously posted about.
Charlie had been home for a few days when I received an email from Sally. She explained that she and her husband had been chosen to adopt a baby. It happened during the same time frame Charlie came home. Everything happened so quickly that she did not have time to email me. I remember crying when I read that email.
A little over a month ago, she got to meet Charlie and I got to meet her baby.
Looking back, I realize that several people (and friends) played a role in our family’s survival of the NICU. These two friends have a special place among those. I think of them often and I hope I always will.