On our TV at home, we have a screen saver that shows my backed-up photos before it goes to sleep. 90% of my photos are of my daughter, Holly, who was born 16 weeks premature. So naturally, there are a ton of hospital photos, tons of photos of her as a tiny baby with different oxygen apparatuses and tubes and wires. A little baby getting her first bath in a tub the size of a shoe box. Then a later picture, us at home, Holly doing tummy time with one of our dogs sniffing her face. But sometimes a random picture of a pulse ox reading or a picture of the hospital she spent her first four and a half months in.
These memories spark a proud mama bear in me; proud of her for how far she’s come, proud of our family for what we have gotten through, together. Some people might be scared to have a random picture pop up of their baby when she was only 1 lb 5 oz, three chest tubes, much smaller than my husband’s hands that are cupped around her. For us, and even for Holly, who is 2 and a half- we only see our child. Our strong girl who managed to survive when the odds were stacked against her. She sees herself on the TV, looking more like a fetus than a newborn, and she just says, ‘Baby Holly!’
Today I was scrolling through some NICU pictures looking for something specific, when I came across a photo of my daughter where she had taken the nasal cannula off of her face. Followed by a picture of her pulse ox monitor, where she is satting 99% oxygen. Side by side, these pictures tell a story that this girl was getting ready to go home. That she was getting ready to start her life outside the hospital. This girl who was born with lungs so premature that she was intubated for 8 weeks; this girl whose lungs were so weak that they kept collapsing.
Some people see pictures of NICU babies and they are sad that these babies are in the hospital. But when I see pictures of NICU babies, all I see are tiny warriors fighting for their place in this world. Being saved by people who have devoted their lives and poured their energy and love into these babies. I see amazing families who rally around their children and fight to make the world a better place for them.
If you’re in the hospital with your child and you’re afraid to take pictures (I was)- just take them. Have nurses take pictures of you with your baby, even if you can’t smile, capture the moment. Have it with you forever. One day, it will be part of your story, and you will be glad to see it.