I feel like I start every sentence with, ‘when my daughter was born 16 weeks early…’ because that has become my life. I’m not mad about that, anymore. When she was born, I though I’d never want to talk about it, because I felt like my life had ended- but instead it just changed. Talking about my daughter’s premature birth is a huge part of my life now- initially it was just to vent, I had to get it out- but now I try and use my daughter’s story to help others. When I got stronger and truly became my daughter’s parent, protector, advocate- I blossomed into the woman I am today.
Does that mean I’m strong every day? No.
Does that mean I don’t question myself? No.
Does that mean I don’t miss my ‘old’ life sometimes? No.
Does that mean I see life more fully, see colors brighter, and live more fully? YES.
I have met some of the most amazing people that I wouldn’t have otherwise known. I have met parents who have faced dire diagnosis, and instead of withering under stress, they became fierce defenders to extraordinary warriors. These children whose souls are unmarred by any physical imperfections- children that shine so brightly they are a marvel to behold. I have met mothers and fathers whose entire lives have been turned upside down at the birth of their child; yet handled it with such grace and compassion you can’t help but admire them.
Does that mean they don’t need support? No.
Does that mean it is easy? No.
Does that mean that sometimes they don’t wish things had turned out differently? No.
Does that mean they love their children fiercely, fight for their rights and make themselves heard? YES.
I meet other NICU parents and no matter what path our children or lives have taken, we just get each other. We lift each other up like family, even when we might be strangers. In fact, I am reticent to even use that word- strangers- when talking about other NICU parents, because there is no such thing. We are part of an exclusive club that we didn’t ask to be a part of. That’s why we embrace each other with open arms, even if it’s the first time we’ve met. We wipe each other’s tears away, and their fight becomes ours.
When they say it takes a village to raise a child, there is no stronger village than a NICU village.