I will never forget the day I was wheeled into NICU the environment was scary, sombre even.
Being wheeled up to an incubator housing a 1lb15oz human being, first introduction to my daughter not being allowed to hold her barely being allowed to touch her. I remember the day I finally got to participate in “kangaroo care” too terrified to relish and enjoy the moment for fear of her giant ventilator mask moving a fraction out of place. There was no amazing baby smell, no tiny hand grasping my finger. Just beeping machines, wires we relied on, alarms going off that would make your heart skip a beat, letting you know of any trouble. Believe me, there was trouble, she stopped breathing once whilst I was stood there, turning grey and lifeless. Complete unease. Memories of when time stood still, too scared to breathe.
Olivia spent 89 days in NICU, She struggled and we struggled. This time I’ll spare you the details they do not matter. What matters is the result, the memories of those months.
I carry antibacterial hand sanitizer everywhere I go, the smell, unfortunately, brings me straight back to NICU. I look around and see every detail of those sterile wards. The soap that destroys your hands, every time you touch something washing your hands repeatedly. Now it’s habit, the diagram above the sinks explaining how to wash your hands correctly is etched into my mind.
My daughter has scars. Just between her neck and shoulder blade on the right, there is a scar where the surgeon had to insert a PICC line to save her life. If you look closely at her hands you can make out numerous tiny iv scars. Then there is a large scar across her abdomen where she required life-saving surgery on her intestines. I see these scars everyday, every day I bathe her and change her, my beautiful baby bares these scars from her traumatic entry into this world and as result, I too bare the same scars.
Sections of my phone I can barely bring myself to look at, photos from NICU I swiftly scroll past. Memories that are too painful to relive. Scrolling through social media can be incredibly difficult, seeing those rosy-cheeked chubby babies, new mums just gave birth with their partner’s support. The level of emotion they invoke deep within me and dare I say it? Jealousy.
Watching Sofiya try to play with her sister breaks my heart, I’m thrown back into the dull grey rooms, wondering what if. Reliving everyday questioning, What did they miss? What did I miss?
This is something I have to live with. I know I’m incredibly lucky it may not seem it but have faith in me. NICU wasn’t a pleasant experience, however, our daughter is alive and for that, I am eternally grateful. Looking at my four year old I’m hardly able to recognise the fragile baby in the photos, hardly able to picture her as the child of those memories. I know she was that child because every fibre in my body is haunted by those nicu memories.
Olivia suffers from Physical lasting effects of NICU & I suffer Mentally. As far as I’m aware NICU-PTSD isn’t an actual “thing” yet I can experience symptoms of PTSD before entering a hospital. I am a post nicu mum and she is an ex-preemie. Our lives may not be “perfect” nevertheless, we will wear it like a badge of honour.