So the long time followers of my blog have probably notice a shift in my blog focusing on NICU resources. I recently became a Parent Support Volunteer at the NICU where Ryan was born. Before Ryan had left the NICU, I always knew it was something that I wanted to do – to give back to other families in the NICU. I must say it was a whirlwind of emotions coming back to the NICU for the first. Just sitting in the training, hearing codes over the intercom system made my heart race. After the training was finished, they gave a us a tour of the NICU. It’s a rather large NICU with the capacity to fit 48 babies. They have 4 different pods – within each pod there are only single and double room with a nurse’s station in the middle. I only had seen two of the different pods while Ryan was in the NICU and certainly never wandered around any of the pods during Ryan’s stay. It was weird revisiting the rooms he had stayed it. They were empty. I just kinda got this eerie feeling and my breath caught in the back of my throat. I didn’t want to step foot in those rooms and I haven’t had to yet. Parents that experience a traumatic NICU stay often suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While, I don’t believe that I have full blown PTSD or even a moderate class of PTSD, I have realized that I do have certain triggers and I don’t know if it possible to fully recover from them. My brain tells me that I shouldn’t still have these feelings, but my heart and soul know that I have them. I just don’t think you can ever really just “get over” seeing your child lay helpless and suffer and know there was NOTHING you could do take away the pain. However, with all the said, I must say that I have experienced a lot of healing since becoming a volunteer. Going back to the training night, I cried big tears and heart broke again telling my story. I realize I still have a lot of emotions in my birth stories and Ryan’s NICU stay. I think that in telling my story to a group of other moms who completely understand what I went through was my first step in healing. After a few trips to the NICU, my heart began to feel lighter and no longer was the NICU of place of pain, but it has now become a place of hope, healing, and miracles. It has always been that, but I had only felt a lot of the pain that the NICU brings to a mother’s heart before. I love every minute of the being in the NICU. I feel like I am giving back. It’s one of the few times I am away from my family that I don’t feel the guilt that I may be missing out of something at home. As the director expressed to me so beautifully with empathy, “It fills your cup.” Being a parent support volunteer does fill my cup and overflows into a healing place in my heart hoping that by just listening to other families tell their own stories that I might be helping to heal their hearts as well.
One of things that I was also scared to do was look at the pictures of Ryan’s CD that we mailed to us after we left. These were pictures that Parent Support Volunteers took along with Ryan’s nurses. I was afraid to see some of the pictures on the desk fearing they would bring back some terrible emotions. I often held a lot of my fears about Ryan inside. I was also too afraid if I said my feelings outloud that somehow they would become reality. After going around one night in the NICU to take pictures of the babies for the first time, it gave me courage to look back at our disc of picture. Before that night, I had only looked at it briefly once when it arrived. This first picture is of Ryan when he battled NEC (infection in his bowels) which was the hardest part of his NICU stay. I was holding Ryan in this picture, his nurse thought his little hands under his chin were so cute. That is an anderson tube in his mouth. It was sucking everything out of his belly.
Here a picture a nurse took while we were away. He looks so sweet holding onto his soothie pacifier. This was probably a few days before he was released.
Here is one I believe a Parent Support Volunteer took very shortly after his birth. I love this photo and his tiny little feet.
While some people will never understand my emotions and the pain I have associated with the NICU and probably would just tell me I should be over it by now, I’m okay with where I am. I am thankful to be a part of such a wonderful program that has also allowed me to heal more by serving.