September is NICU Awareness month, or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Awareness Month. As a former preemie, and mom to two preemies, I’ve been following closely, and decided to write something about what life is like after the NICU. The month celebrates the professionals who work in the NICU, and the families enduring a journey through its beeping machines, strange schedules, and routine procedures. Often, but not always, that journey coincides with prematurity.
I’ve never really known exactly what to say about my prematurity. I’d have too much to say, and so much would be speculation. It happened. It’s part of me, like the color of my hair or eyes. As it turns out, I have a lot to say, and writing this is part of figuring out how to say it. I know now that being born particularly early has had an enduring effect on who I am and how I perceive the world. Twelve weeks early and weighing less than two pounds leaves a mark. All of this seemed vague until the past year, when I started reading about outcomes for babies born premature, a topic which affects both me and my children.
Now, after reading and saving citations for quite a few popular and scientific articles about premature birth and eventual outcomes, I’ve decided that a more productive approach might be to write about it. As a first take of the many things I could say on this topic, I took the longer view, the view of (now) almost forty years after a NICU experience, the view that most parents who are currently watching over a baby in the NICU simply cannot conceive of yet. You can read my “letter” – “Dear Parents in the NICU” – over on The Mighty, which does an excellent job of sharing stories of the human hopes and trauma of premature birth.
The post has been liked hundreds of times on The Mighty already, and has seen more than a hundred shares and over 250 likes on the NICU Awareness Month’s Facebook in just once day. I say this not to brag, but to say that I’m deeply honored that what I wrote seems to have touched so many. As NICU Month approaches its half-way point, I’m going to keep thinking of ways I can give back, ways to use what I know of my experience of being a preemie and a mom to preemies to make what can be a difficult, scary situation easier for anyone currently facing it.
You can visit the article here, at “Dear Parents in the NICU.”