I did it again today.
When I got to the NICU and saw you, I couldn’t hold it in anymore.
Sweetie, I’m not usually such a basket case. People who know me would describe me as A Strong Woman. But I’m just about to come unglued. I had to drive myself to the hospital today, which I’m not supposed to be doing yet, because I couldn’t bear the thought of waiting until your daddy came home to take me. My ride was supposed to pick me up at 2, but at 2:30 they still hadn’t shown up, and I was nearly frantic because I wanted to see you so badly.
I feel as if someone has cut off my arm. I carried you for six months. I held you so tightly because I was afraid you would die in my belly. Or be born too early to survive. I panicked every time I felt amniotic fluid leaking out of my body. I held my belly tight and hard from the fear. At night I couldn’t sleep unless I felt you moving. In the morning I would wake up with a cramp in my wrist from pressing my palm into my belly all night, trying to feel for you.
I said goodbye so many times.
Every time I went to the doctor, I held my breath as they put the Doppler to my stomach. I wondered, will this be the time they don’t hear your heartbeat? Will this be the time the ultrasound shows you’re gone?
I can’t let go of the fear little one. It wraps around my chest like a vice. I can’t sleep properly. I have nightmares all night. I fought so hard to keep you inside me, so hard. And now you’re not. And I still can’t have you.
This isn’t right.
You’re not supposed to be in a room with strangers, even though they’re kind and wonderful. You don’t like it when the other babies cry. I can tell. It makes you sad. It makes me sad too. I can’t bear the thoughts of you being one of those babies, those feeder grower babies, who are in their final days in the NICU. One of your cellies was doing his car seat test, and crying up a storm. He has to sit in his car seat for 90 minutes and prove that he can breathe properly so that he can go home to his mommy and daddy.
You’ll have to do that too little one, before they’ll let us take you home. But I don’t want you to cry. Your siblings never did. They didn’t have to. They were always carried next to my body. They never had to get hungry, or cold or lonely. They never had to feel pain. They never had to be stuck with needles and have uncomfortable masks and medical doo-dads up their nose.
But you’ll have to cry. You’ll have nurses who won’t be able to love you every moment the way I can. And that tears me up inside.
I spent the afternoon crying buckets of tears. I cried the whole way to the hospital. I dried it up long enough to walk inside, scrub my hands up to my elbows for 3 minutes, don my hospital gown, greet the nurses and put my things down by your isolette.
But when your nurse walked over to greet me, I lost it. I began to shake and sob violently.
“I’m…not…coping…very…well..”, I said.
“You’re not pumping well?”, she said, misunderstanding. It’s hard to understand a crazy lady.
“No…I’m…not…coping…very…well… I can’t feel happy. I want to, but I can’t. I am so afraid.”
“Sweetie your baby is doing so well. It’s going to be a roller coaster, but he’s had no setbacks. He’s doing wonderfully.”
“I know, and I am so grateful! But I can’t feel it. I can’t trust it. I thought I was going to lose him so many times. I can’t feel happy. People keep congratulating me, but I am so scared. I need to talk to someone.”
She put her arms around me and told me to call my doctor, that I probably had Post Partum Depression.
I didn’t know depression could feel like this. I thought it felt like numbness, like a not wanting. But this isn’t numbness. It is the opposite. It is wanting something so badly that you can’t breathe. It is hot, searing pain that forces itself out through your pores just when you think you’re doing ok.
I promise I’ll get it together. I made an appointment to talk to someone who can help me.
I want to be with you every second. And I can’t be. I try to tell myself that under normal circumstances, you would still be in my belly, not my arms. That I wouldn’t normally be able to see your face yet. That you don’t know this isn’t normal. That you aren’t suffering from not being with me. But it doesn’t help. Because I’m suffering enough for the both of us.
I got to hold you again for a long time today. This time, you didn’t have your eye mask on! You aren’t under the blue bili lights anymore. You opened your eyes to look at me. I could see most of your face. You look just like your Daddy, which makes my heart glad. You haven’t had your first bath yet, and you were a little bit stinky! Your nurse said she had to wash your armpits because they were all gunky. And I picked little pieces of goop off your neck.
But I didn’t do the mom spit thing. Promise.