It’s a proven fact that parents who go through the NICU with their babies often suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. If you’ve lived even one day in the NICU, you understand why. Constant fear, grief, pain, guilt……the noises, the smells…..There’s no way you can go through that and come out completely unscathed. I can’t tell you how many years after Ryley came home I still flinched when the phone rang, still had nightmares about his birth and our NICU stay, replayed those awful days in my mind. If it weren’t for a place called Share (www.shareyourstory.org), I would probably still be living deeper in that darkness. I am so very blessed to have amazing friends who have also lived this journey and whom I can call upon when the cave beckons.
But I still have my moments…..days when something will come from out of the blue and take me right back. This morning was one of those times. There I was, just cruising down the road between school and the gym when a song came on. Within the first three chords, I was a hot, weepy mess. The guilt over failing Ryley, the fear we could have lost him so many times, the days when I just couldn’t take it one more second and I walked out of the NICU, abandoning him back to the care of the machines, his doctor, his nurses. And then I thought how I never let myself really grasp how close we were…..how easily we could have been those parents who had to make the call to take him off life-support and let him go. I think if I had really let myself believe we were that close back then, it would have made it happen. Does that make any kind of sense? I was numb, so numb. I believe our minds and hearts do that to protect us to a certain extent. What bites is when you get past it, and then something makes you truly feel what you were numb to…..good grief. It’s painful. It’s terrifying. I look at him now and am sometimes just stunned beyond words.
I hate that anything has such power over my emotions, the outcome of a day. It is unfair that a word, a song, a book, a sound, a smell will peel back all the healing that’s taken place and force me back to that place. It is in those moments I forget to be grateful he’s here, grateful he’s healthy. Sure, I snap out of it. But to have it happen at all – frustrating and sad.
Okay, so I’m a whiner. I’ll admit that. We all have things in our lives for which we grieve. Our story is not any bigger or more important. We all get slammed with memories and pain from time to time. But no amount of time will negate what we survived.