Forgetting and remembering: 40 days in the NICU
There are moments when it all hits you. The reality of your situation. You remember how scary it all really is and wonder how you ever forgot.
There were moments when my baby lay in her NICU bassinet, under blue lights and heating lamps, attached to so many cords and tubes I wasn't sure where one began and another ended. A nurse would say, "she is such a good size!" Or the doctors would say, "she is just doing so well!" I would hear those things and think, "this really isn't so bad. She's totally fine. She'll be home in no time at this rate."
And then she would stop breathing. Or the nurse practitioner would tell us her lungs still looked cloudy. Or she would turn bright red on just one half of her body, something the nurse said was called Harley Quinn, due to her heart valves not being all the way closed. I would remember that those cords and tubes, the heating lamps, the medicines, and the machines: all of it was keeping her alive. And without them, she could not live.
The reality of our situation would hit me, and it was always overwhelming. I wondered how I could go on. Or how I could leave her there, knowing it was only tubes and machines that kept her breathing and her heart beating.
I realized over and over just how serious it is for a baby to leave the womb so early.
And then I would forget again… because there was no other way to go on. It was the only way to function. To forget, and to once again let myself believe things weren't all that serious. That my girl was just like any other baby. That if the machines failed, she could still make it. I wasn't lying to myself, I was simply forgetting. And forgetting made it possible to endure each of those 40 days.
And forgetting makes it possible for me to endure now. If I remember, really fully recognize, just how fragile my baby was at birth, I would wrap her up in a bubble and never leave her side. In the moments when I remember, I become a crazed mama bear, ready to fight tooth and nail against anything that dare threaten my baby, like the sound of a cough or the smell of a cigarette. I think, "don't you know my baby was born with sick lungs?!?" As if it should be written on her forehead for all to see.
But when I forget I can relax. I can enjoy my baby's early months, I can appreciate this time that I have, and stop grieving for the weeks she wasn't in my arms.
I am grateful for forgetting. And I am grateful for remembering. But I am always grateful for once again, forgetting. It's a cycle that I feel is necessary. Necessary to continuing forward. And necessary for treasuring the miracle that is my daughter.