This wasn’t how we envisioned it would be. Not even close. We had visions of welcome home parties, a laughing baby, up-all-night swaddling, and grandparent spoiling dancing in our heads. But not this. And that’s okay.
We’re plagued with an undeniable and overbearing sense to control everything, even if we don’t realize we’re doing it. Think about it – you wake up, you make your bed YOUR way, get dressed YOUR way, make breakfast YOUR way, go to work and drive YOUR way, and spend the day generally doing what YOU want to do because YOU are your own person and that’s how it should be. But what if it wasn’t? What if someone came in and said, “Nope, today we’re doing everything my way. And there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it.” Now imagine that, not only did someone come in and turn YOUR life upside down, but they experience chaos the entire day. You’d probably be a little angry, a little confused, a little powerless and resentful, and maybe even ask, “Why me?” This is what a NICU parent experiences. Every. Single. One.
When something like this happens to us, one of the first things we do is blame ourselves, no matter how irrational such a perception may be. We think maybe we should have done something differently. Maybe if I’d eaten more. Maybe if I’d eaten less. Maybe if I didn’t push myself so hard. Maybe if I’d have quit my job. Maybe if I prayed harder. Maybe if I didn’t cuss at that one lady who cut me off on the interstate. I’m here to tell you, unequivocally and from personal experience that it’s 100% NOT your fault.
Sometimes these things happen and no one can control it. It’s not our jobs to ask why it happened or, less importantly, why it happened to us. It’s our jobs to respond. This isn’t something that happened TO you. It’s something that happened FOR you to open your eyes, to see the world a little differently than before, to understand something. YOU need to figure out what that is and harness it. Bottle it up and use it to do something good. Remember this, anyone can take a negative situation, create a negative perception, and wallow in it. It takes someone spectacular to take a negative situation and turn it into something good.
After we blame ourselves, we then feel a sense of sorry for our little ones because we put them in their situation. We look at their circumstances, what with all of the nurses and doctors, the tubes and wires, and perceive them to be powerless and pity them, causing us to blame ourselves even more than we already do. Much like it’s not our jobs to wonder why, it’s not our jobs to feel sorry for them. Why? They aren’t feeling sorry for themselves. They’re in their isolettes and cribs EVERY DAY fighting for one more breath of fresh air, looking back at you with bright eyes and a big heart. Don’t pity this. Be inspired by it.
Every day my son looks at me with his eyes, I feel the power in his little body and it’s telling me not to give up, not to give into this situation, and not to feel sorry for him or for myself. There’s power and there’s conviction in that. I’m supposed to be his rock as his father, yet he’s been my rock and makes me want to be better. DO better.
My challenge to any of you who may feel that something you did put someone you love in a negative situation is to ask yourself, “What can I learn from this? How do I take this situation and make it into something positive?” Don’t ask, “Why did this happen to me?”, but consider “I was chosen for this because I can do something good with it.” Life is too short for negative perceptions. Everything we learn and go through can and should be used to make this world a better place. My son taught me that.
Be on the lookout for something from me in the near future that I hope will help children and parents who are on the NICU journey to look within and be inspired. In the interim, please check out these charities for small babies and children and consider making a donation to help their cause. Pascale’s Pals has been fantastic in our family’s journey through the NICU.
Be Good. Do Good.
And God bless you!