On May 4th, 1992, Carma finally got to take her baby home after 73 days on an emotional roller coaster in a place that felt like science fiction. Surrounded by a sea of babies, most of them weighing under 2 pounds (1 kilogram), kept alive through surgeries, daily being needled, tubed, taped and treated in ways no parent wants their baby to experience (though it's life-saving). She felt as though they had come home from combat. A local support group for NICU families helped and she volunteered to become their newsletter editor.
This article was written to inform nurses, social workers, clergy, family, friends, and co-workers of new parents whose infant must stay in a Newborn Intensive Care Unit . The platitudes most frequently offered to console or bolster parents are not helpful, but most NICU parents are in too much shock and upset to know what to say or do, so these unsuccessful attempts to be helpful are usually politely dismissed. Then later, the parents vent where it is safe, in a room alone with other NICU parents who are grieving--numb, scared out of their wits, horrified, deeply disturbed, anxious, angry and maybe even outraged and rightfully so. They did everything right, everything the doctor ordered, and are suspected of not taking precautions during pregnancy, or at least they feel guilty and lost. The best thing to do is listen. This article is a composite of parents' comments, not merely the author's experience.
Warning: Readers who have experienced a miscarriage, traumatic childbirth or NICU incident may be triggered by this article.
Carma's 2-pounder thrived thanks to her dedication and the experts. He is now an AP Scholar attending college in Los Angeles, and wants to become a Cinematographer. As a backup plan, he is also majoring in Accounting to become a CPA.