Yesterday I met the grandmother of another baby in the NICU. We talked for a little while and she told me she couldn't even imagine what it was like to be here so much. I gave my standard answer: it's hard but we manage.
But her question made me think...how would I describe the NICU to someone if I really thought about it? There's so much to say that it's hard to sum up. I wanted to write it here so I won't forget.
The NICU is the place that holds you and your emotions prisoner. It can make you the happiest you've ever been and then devastate you in the same moment.
The NICU is the place where you make friends without ever saying a word to someone. A smile in the hallway, a look exchanged when you're waiting for the receptionist, a neighbor in the same pod as you. You have to stick together. These people get it. They're in the same club as you.
The NICU is the place where you're so tired but you're too awake to sleep. Your eyes are burning with exhaustion but the moment you think about sleep an alarm goes off somewhere. It might not be yours but you have to check.
The NICU is the place where you learn to be a nurse and parent at the same time. You know at a moment's glance that your child's heart rate is too low or too high or just right. You memorize how much oxygen he needs, what his blood pressure is, how often he stops breathing.
The NICU is the place where you memorize the sounds of the rocking chairs as you sit every day, rocking back and forth, back and forth. After a while, the creak, creak, creak is more comforting than anything. It, at least, never changes.
The NICU is the place where your head aches from turning back and forth to read the monitor so often. You could move your chair but then you wouldn't be able to see your baby.
The NICU is the place where you ask "Why?" so many times you lose count. You don't even expect an answer after a while. Even if you got one, it wouldn't be good enough. But you still wonder and so you still ask.
The NICU is the place where you wait. Wait for the doctors, for the nurses, wait for visitors, wait for the days to pass.
The NICU is the place where you celebrate milestones like two pounds, and then wonder if you would have ever thought two pounds was a milestone before this happened.
The NICU is the place where you can be surrounded by dozens of people but still feel all alone.
The NICU is the place where God works miracles.
That's what the NICU is like.