I saw the box covered with dark blankets, leaking blue light out of the cracks and onto the floor.

At first, I didn’t know your baby was inside.

Then the alarms went off. Something was wrong with her heart-rate and breathing.

The nurse came in and worked on her, only touching her from the outside of the box with gloves that extended from the holes the box had built into it.

I sat there in horror as I watched the nurse work to save your two-pound baby.

I thought to myself, “Where the hell is her mom? What kind of mother LEAVES their baby in the NICU?”

I read your baby’s information on the wall. I saw that you delivered at least ten weeks early. My heart sank.

My eyes scanned the long list of medical problems she was currently being treated for, some of them I recognized, but some I didn’t. Regardless, I knew your baby was far from healthy.

I stared at our children’s vitals all night that night. My eyes were bloodshot.

When my husband came in the morning and shooed me to the bathroom, I didn’t want to leave my baby. I couldn’t imagine what kind of monster you were to have left yours all night.

I turned on the bathroom faucet to wash my hands and broke down as I glimpsed my reflection in the mirror. I didn’t recognize the face staring back at me anymore.

Not long after I returned to the NICU room that we shared with your baby, you came to visit her.

When I first saw you, I was furious. My heart filled with rage.

I wanted to ask how you could possibly leave your child in what I can only believe to be a literal hell on earth.

You said hello to your baby and smiled at me as you sat down with the double breast pump.

I wondered how anyone could smile at a time like this. My baby was by far the healthier one in the NICU and it was all I could do not to have a nervous breakdown.

You spoke to me as you pumped while the sunrise filtered in through the window behind your back.

You asked me how long we’d been here, how my baby was, when he was born and how I was doing.

I was caught off guard by your concern.

We talked as you fed your baby through the box with the gloves, not even being able to touch her.

You told me you had been here several weeks already and that your baby was doing so much better than she had been.

Part of me broke.

How could you say your baby was doing so much better? If this was progress, I didn’t want to know how bad she had been before.

How could babies be this sick?

How could any of this be real?

How were you not screaming your head off, tearing apart pieces of our tiny room?

How had you survived weeks of this already?

You told me you wished you could be here all the time. At first you had been. Eventually you had to eat and sleep, so sometimes you had to leave.

I realized not only had you been doing this for several weeks, but you had many weeks ahead of you as well.

That made me feel even worse. I felt guilty and remorseful. Then panic for you.

Dear NICU Mom,

I’m sorry I didn’t understand. Thank you for being the calm during the storm.

I know that we both made it out of there by now, but of course that is not entirely true. We’ve left the NICU behind, but we will never be rid of it, and we will never forget.

New Crunchy Mom

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