“…we just want it to be healthy.”

23 Aug

It’s a question frequently asked of expectant parents, “Do you want a boy or a girl?” At some point in time, we have either heard this familiar answer or we have used the statement ourselves to answer that question, “We don’t have a preference; we just want it to be healthy.”

It sounds like a good answer, but I’ve often wanted to ask the follow-up question, “But, what if it isn’t healthy? Then what?” I don’t say that to be critical or condescending, but as someone who has found herself in the position of giving birth to an unhealthy baby, I wonder if some expectant parents have really thought about how they would answer that question.

Sammy spent nearly 4 months in the neonatal ICU following his birth. It was a rather large NICU that could accommodate 60+ babies at any one time, and it was often at capacity. Except for the day following my c-section due to my own health crisis and the day following my gall bladder removal 5 weeks later, I was at Sammy’s bedside daily. I saw newborn babies admitted for observation following c-section deliveries. I saw micro-preemies who were too fragile to be held. I saw twins, triplets, and quads. I saw infants born with drug addictions. I saw babies needing oxygen, intubated and on ventilators, with feeding tubes, and with scars indicating that they had needed surgery of some kind. I saw babies leave the NICU to go home with their parents, and I saw parents leave the NICU with empty arms.

They say that “home is where the heart is”; well, during those four months, my heart was in that NICU. After spending a little while there, I began to feel overwhelmed and depressed by the fact that it seemed as if every baby was sick because that is all I saw every day. Finally, a little reality kicked in and I reminded myself that healthy babies were being born every day in that hospital and also in hospitals and homes around the world.

I think maybe I spent a little too much time focused on and worrying about babies who were sick, but I also think that we sometimes take it for granted that pregnancies will go perfectly and babies will be born healthy.  But, what if?

Life in the NICU

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