Dear precious baby,
You’re here. It’s too early, too soon. I didn’t get to feel you grow for long enough. You didn’t get to grow for long enough.
You’re small. I’m afraid. I think you’re beautiful but also that you don’t look like a baby should. There aren’t any chunky cheeks or thigh rolls.
You don’t even cry.
I want to hold you. Make you feel warm and safe. Let you know I’m sorry you’re out here already. Everything the doctors do to save you kills me. The pokes, the prods, the discomfort. I’m sorry. I can’t hold you. I hold your hand and hope it’s enough.
I fight for you every day. Fight for you to have the best care and the best doctors. I fight for people to care about you like I care about you.
I cry a lot. A lot of worries weigh on my mind. I think about you now and I worry. I think about you in six months and I worry. Five years, twenty years. I worry.
I read a lot. I want to know about everything so I can fight for you.
Leaving you makes me die inside. This isn’t what our first weeks and months toghether were supposed to look like.
Moms with new babies make me angry. They complain about crying and no sleep. I wish you could come home and keep me up at night.
Time in the NICU is so fast. I can never hold you as much as I want. I miss diaper changes because they’re done early and I don’t get to say when your diaper is changed.
I missed your umbilical cord falling off. I missed changing meconium diapers. I missed your first bath. I didn’t swaddle you for your first night here. I didn’t pick out your blankets or hats or clothes. You didn’t even get to wear clothes for a while.
You’re alone a lot. I don’t like that. I’m alone, too.
Nurses are sometimes not as responsive or as gentle with you as I would like. Most of your nurses are wonderful and I’m grateful they can care for you when I’m not here. I’m grateful they can save your life.
Decisions are made about how you eat, sleep, bathe, get held, wear clothes, and everything else without my feedback, consent, or sometimes knowledge.
A nurse tells me you like something and I didn’t know. I cry.
A nurse tells me you had a hard night and your oxygen was increased. I cry.
A nurse tells me you’re throwing up too much so they stop feeding you. I cry.
A nurse tells me you’re pale and anemic, so you need a blood transfusion. I cry.
A nurse tells me you alarmed 16 times overnight. I cry.
I cry every day for you, for me, for this never-ending chapter of our lives.
A nurse tells me you now weigh over three pounds. I rejoice.
A nurse tells me you’re eating 1 ounce of milk at a time now. I rejoice.
A nurse tells me you’re allowed to wear clothes now. I rejoice.
A nurse tells me your scans are all normal. I rejoice.
A nurse tells me your heart is no longer slowing down dangerously. I rejoice.
There’s so much to celebrate. Every week you’re better.
And yet I cry because a nurse shares these things with me.
I cry because your due date is this week and you’re not ready to come home.
I cry because no one will tell me if you’ll be okay.
I cry because the alarms are too hard for me to listen to.
I cry because I decided to stay home tonight and, for the first time in two months, I will not see you today. I make this decision after I sat on the bathroom floor of the NICU and cried for two hours yesterday. I need a break from the alarms. I cry because I hope you’ll understand.
I cry because I have three two-month-olds and I don’t know what it feels like to take care of a baby at home.
I cry because I love you so much it physically hurts.
I cry because I’m luckier than some other moms, and because some moms are luckier than me.
I cry because my body and I failed you.
I cry because I can’t protect you when you’re out here.
I cry because hope hurts.
One day you’ll come home. I cry because that day is not today.