Forgiven But Not Forgotten

As life carries us away from the NICU days, it becomes easier to forgive how traumatic those months were, but we never forget them. Sometimes, I feel like I am a different person wearing the costume of the person I once was. On the outside, I look very much the same, but in the middle of a simple conversation with an old friend, I’ll stumble. I don’t know how to answer questions about what I’ve been doing these last years. It’s all too personal and difficult to toss haphazardly into a light conversation, and so I must seem brusque or quick to change the subject because all of the things we heard and saw and felt still touch us in ways that are absolutely unexplainable in a quick conversation.

And as busy as I am and as healthy as my kids are, I never forget where we’ve been. Little reminders touch me throughout each¬†day. Someone mentions blood pressure, and I think about preeclampsia. I wash my hands in a gas station bathroom, and the automatic paper towel dispenser is the same brand as the ones that I must have used 1,000 times in the NICU. I see a newborn and think no matter how tiny that baby seems now, there was a time when I thought newborns were giants.

Sometimes, I am completely blindsided by the welling up of such ferocious emotions. I was watching a reality TV show (My Five Wives) last weekend, and in the episode, a healthy, young pregnant woman gave birth within a matter of hours to her first child, a baby boy, at 25 weeks. Baby Huck’s birth reminded me so much of my experience with J that I started crying. And then I cried harder when the baby’s father said that the baby was having so many good days that he was afraid for the bad ones. I knew exactly what he meant, how you try to steel your emotions for all the possible heartbreaks ahead. And how you live in a space of being afraid to freely love your baby but loving your baby anyway, so much so that the thought of having him taken from you makes you unable to find any peace. Each moment of the day is filled with fear, and the journey feels unending.

The more time that passes, the more I believe this past is never dead. There is always a place within preemie parents where our babies are tiny.