My three-year-old niece recently spent a few days in the hospital with pneumonia. My sister texted, “Don’t know how you did it for so long last year…. I was going crazy after four days.”
I’ve heard this sentiment a few times – when we compare the amount of time spent in the hospital and somehow think this correlates to how emotionally traumatized we should be. It is hard to have a child in the hospital no matter how long. Yes, there is hard and there is harder, but the way we cope for a few days or a few months are the same:
We take it one day at a time.
When my oldest child was in the NICU, I remember crying in the car on the way home from the hospital. My husband tried to comfort me, telling me our son was going to be fine. He was right. Our 34-weeker was what the nurses called a “feeder and grower,” meaning he didn’t have any major complications but needed to learn to feed just like any other baby at that gestational age.
That wasn’t what I was crying about though.
It is a strange feeling to birth a child, and then be separated so soon – and for an unspecified amount of time. Much of my anxiety stemmed from just not knowing when he would be able to come home. Days? Weeks? Months? It was hard to think about the future: tomorrow will I be trekking to the NICU again or will I be hunkered down at home with a tiny fragile baby? Do I need to buy a stockpile of diapers to prepare for him to come home or will he outgrow them before he leaves the hospital?
If you leave the NICU every day thinking that you can’t do this anymore, take a page from Samuel Beckett’s “The Unnamable.” The closing sentence of his novel is this: “You must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.” Keep on keepin’ on.