Recently I came across a blog that really hit home. A fellow mama posted a link to it. This mama and I live states away but connected during our NICU stay and life after the NICU. Having someone out there that understood the life of a NICU family was so comforting. Even though we live miles apart those miles didn’t seem so far when I saw all of my friends welcoming their second babies, smiling faces, swaddling blankets, coming home on day three from the hospital. Holding their babies just after birth just as I did Noah…I felt eons away from that reality I so desperately wanted. So a few states away or one facebook message away wasn’t all that far.
The title of the blog was, “But She’s Healthy Now Right?”
The title alone had me catch my breath.
I struggle with this daily. Every time we go out. “He is ok now though right?”, “good to have your boys all fine and no worries now!”, “he will catch up and be chasing his brothers in no time!” Or “he is almost 2?? He crawls right?”, “glad that is behind you, huh?”, “aren’t you glad you are out of the newborn stage?” And on and on and on and on.
When no…we aren’t out of the “newborn stage” and nothing is behind us. We aren’t in the “clear”. He doesn’t crawl, barely can hold his head up and still eats from a bottle and doesn’t tolerate regular food and is on a very special diet. Just one of his bottles that he has to have a minimum of three of cost $8 each, they are nearly 450 calories a bottle with 11 grams of protein in each. Trust me I know how exhausting the newborn phase is, I’ve been living it for nearly three years now with that short break right before the twins were born. So take that newborn phase and add on some medical chaos and a million appointments, live that for a year with no end in sight and come back and tell me how grueling that 6 month newborn phase is.
I never know what to say…people don’t know what to do with the truth and don’t often want to hear the truth. That this sweet gorgeous curly haired blue eyed boy isn’t “ok”, yes we aren’t in the hospital right now…but he is not ok. People don’t even know what CP or PVL are…they don’t know about NEC or short gut or seizures or auditory neuropathy.
I say the words brain damaged and they often recoil in horror.
People don’t want to hear the answer to why isn’t he responding to me saying his name…he is deaf.
People don’t want to hear the answer to why won’t he look at me, just let me try (clapping, waving, dancing, etc.)….no, it wont work he is blind.
People don’t want to hear why his identical twin is more than double his size and the struggle we face daily to get him to gain weight….that he has no large intestine and short gut syndrome. Sometimes I like to think maybe I should invite these people over for short gut diaper duty…or wish they would have been there in the beginning for the 20 poopy diapers a day (at least) and trying to control a diaper rash that was more like a 3rd degree burn up until he was 1. Maybe then they would understand why he weighs “just” 16 pounds. To us it is more like, “Aiden weighs a whopping SIXTEEN POUNDS!!! He has cheeks to pinch! I can’t count every rib in his chest! HE HAS FAT!! He is GROWING!” Or maybe I should just start saying, “you would have a hard time gaining weight if you had diarrhea 10 times a day too.”
I never want people to feel uncomfortable. I know they aren’t meaning to open old wounds. I know they don’t know they are the sixth person asking me the same question that I’ve encountered that day alone and I am just trying to get my kids to the park or grab a few quick things at the store. I know that they mean well.
But sometimes I just want to say its ok to not be ok. That I don’t want to hold my son to the standard of not being “ok”. That he is more than all the things stacked against him. That he is more than a diagnosis. That we are just at the park. We are just at the store. That I don’t know you. That he is just a kid, just like his brothers.
I guess what I am getting at is please, before you speak, before you ask “what is wrong” or “everything is ok now?” that you need to be prepared for the person to not smile and say that everything is ok. That when you ask why my son is so small or why he is so different than his twin and want a neat, nice, warm little answer that ends with a happy ending that I struggle because I don’t know what to tell you. “I would really like to fill you in on prematurity, the 5 month NICU stay, NEC, PDA openings, spesis, DIC, organ failure, PVL, auditory neuropathy, infantile spasms or epilepsy (we aren’t sure yet) and our fears and battles in the future and present BUT I would LOVE to just grab the bananas, milk and cheese I came in here for without rehashing my child’s medical history and triggering my PTSD. K, thanks!”
Think about what the result of your words or questions will be good or bad. Are you just curious? Does it matter if we’ve made to that ever elusive “ok” – does that change how adorable he is? Does it change his infectious smile? If you are just a passer by, you don’t need to know the details to pray or wish someone well or admire a babies smile or child’s laugh. Think about that family and if they are at the park trying to have fun or at the store rushing to get grocery shopping done with three kids (which is already NEVER easy) and think about how your words will affect that. Think about your largest struggle in your life and wonder if you would want to be asked to explain it every time you ventured in public.
I know there will always be people who ask pregnant women if they are having twins, when they aren’t. People asking if your pregnant, when you aren’t. People asking when you will have kids when you either don’t want kids or you desperately do and wonder the very same thing. People don’t mean to stick their foot in their mouths, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt or strike a nerve.
And not all questions are bad. Not all concern strikes that nerve. Our neighbors, friends, community and more have asked and offered help. Been there to celebrate a good day and been a shoulder to cry on for the bad. They have been in it for the good and the bad and walk with us. It is small talk. The nosy nature of wanting to know just to know.
I never know what to say, the truth is, it is day to day, minute to minute and we are thankful for each one because he was given less than a 1% chance live. So no he isn’t “ok” or “normal” or what many would call “healthy” but he is here and that is all that matters.
So I take a deep breath and say, “he is as ok as he can be right now.” Because isn’t that the best any of us can do?