This year while at the conference I attend each year, I told our story quite a few times. And each time, I used the word only with air quotes.
How obnoxious are air quotes? I mean, seriously. I need to cut that crap out.
So yes, I used air quotes and talked about how Olivia spent ‘only’ eleven days in the NICU.
I used the air quotes to let people know that I knew that there is no such thing as only. Except, obviously, I still felt the need to throw that only out there anyway, thinking the air quotes negated it.
I think, no matter how much I tried to deny it, I used the word only to let everyone around me know that I didn’t think that Olivia’s eleven days in the NICU compared in any way to the days, weeks and yes, months other babies spent in the hospital.
I wanted everyone to know that I respected the fact that their children were sicker than mine. That they’re children spend more time in intensive care than mine and because of these things, obviously my pain from having O in the NICU didn’t compare to anyone else’s.
But you know what? There’s no comparison because pain is pain. There is no award given to the person who suffered the longest or the hardest. There’s just suffering.
And by acknowledging that, I’m giving up the ‘only’.
My story now reads: My daughter spend eleven days in the NICU immediately following her birth.
My full-term newborn spend eleven days in the NICU.
I went to the hospital to have a baby at 41 weeks and two days pregnant and when my baby was three hours old, she was taken from the hospital where she was born and transported via ambulance to a larger hospital with a NICU equipped to care for her. She spent the next eleven days in that NICU. I spent the first night of my daughter's life an hour's drive away from here. Beginning the very next day, I visited her every single day, dividing my time between the NICU and home, where my three year old waited, no understanding why her sister was not home with us.
No matter where I was during those eleven days, I felt like I should be somewhere else.
If I was with Olivia at the hospital, I felt like I was neglecting Alyssa at home. When I got home, within minutes, I felt like I was the worst mother ever because my baby was at the hospital, all alone.
There is no only in that story. There is pain. There is grief. There is suffering. Our entire family suffered during those eleven days we were separated from each other.
No one ever expects their newborn to spend time in the hospital. For me, having had a fairly uneventful pregnancy that ended with an induced delivery nine days after my due date, I absolutely didn’t expect my baby to end up in the NICU.
My daughter spent eleven days in the NICU immediately following her birth. It was hard. It was painful. It was unexpected and I wouldn’t wish those eleven days on anyone else.
Here we are, coming up on Olivia’s ninth birthday and I’m finally letting go of the only and embracing the trauma that we all suffered during her eleven days in the NICU. I believe that by embracing the pain, I’ll be able to let it go. By letting go of the ‘only’ I’ll be able to see that our experience was as valid, as painful, as hard as anyone else’s. It was our experience. We lived it. We were lucky to survive it. And we’re so, so lucky to be able to tell the story of it.