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If the NICU Walls Could Talk

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The neonatal intensive care unit (or NICU as most call it) is a place where newborns who are sick or babies who come into this world too early and aren’t healthy go. 

The babies in most NICUs range from healthy with a couple minor problems to a baby who is either too tiny or too sick. Those babies are usually at the highest level of NICU care possible. That is the NICU I will be writing about.

I believe the walls in the NICU have probably heard more prayers, more Hail Marys and more thank-yous to God than a church chapel has. Because when your child or newborn baby is sick, you’re willing to offer up anything and willing to pray to every god known to man (even if you aren’t really religious) if you think it might save your baby.

The walls in the NICU have heard parents pour their hearts out to these tiny babies. They’ve heard them talk about how loved they are and how so-and-so can’t wait to meet them.

The walls have heard a parent tell their baby about all of their hopes and dreams for them. They’ve heard parents talk to each other, to nurses, to doctors and, sometimes, even to themselves. Because when it’s a parent and a baby all day — with minimal adult interaction — then yes, sometimes talking to yourself, reassuring yourself or even giving yourself a pep talk is completely OK.

The walls have heard a parent get the most gut-wrenching news, and you could hear a pin drop. I know that situation all too well from experience.

They’ve heard sobs of parents who have exhausted all options for their baby and now have to make a decision no parent should ever have to make for their child.

They’ve heard the fear of not knowing what happens next but knowing there is no choice but to keep pushing.

They’ve seen smiles when babies improve. They’ve heard a parent thank God when their child turns a corner and the worst is over. They’ve seen happy, healthy babies get to leave with their proud parents who have long awaited discharge day.

Each baby forever touches that room, whether the baby lives or dies. And I’d like to think a piece of them always remains there.

Now what would the walls in the NICU say after hearing and seeing all of that? I think they would say, “Mom, whose baby is so fragile and whose life or death isn’t clear, I see you. I really see you. I want you to know you’re not the first to walk this journey, and sadly, you won’t be the last.

To the dad who is trying to be strong for his partner, it’s OK to show your emotions. I promise nobody will think any less of you.

I hear your prayers, I hear your biggest dreams for your baby and I wish I could help guide you. Just be present, in every moment you can be present, and take it all in. Because this will change you as a parent, whether your baby just has some minor issues and is out of here in no time or if you’re one of the unfortunate ones who leave without your baby, you will forever be changed by us. By these NICU walls.”

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Originally published: August 15, 2016
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