It’s funny how human memory works; strange what triggers old memories to come rushing back and knock you off-guard. Sights. Sounds. But mostly smells!
I went into the NICU again the other day to deliver some donor breast milk. As I drove into the hospital parking lot, that old, somewhat familiar feeling crept over me…just that single thought: “I am the mother of a premature baby“. That single thought. It never ceases to jolt me, even though it has been months since my own baby was lying there, in that incubator.
The smell of the alcohol in the hand cleanser by the door only serves to remind me of a time when I had no control. My baby was at the mercy of others, and I was a mere visitor in her little life. While waiting for a nurse to come and fetch the milk,the clicking sound of the apnea monitors takes me right back to those uncertain times. All I can see are images of my own tiny human attached to various monitors with flashing lights and warning bells.
A small cry carries across the ward and my mother-heart cringes. My chest is squeezed and I feel my eyes stinging. The same nurses are still rushing about and we exchange pleasantries. They all want pictures of baby; to know how she is doing. It’s nice to know that they really cared and that they still do, but I still want to run. I need to get out of there as quick as I can.
Simultaneously, I empathise with all the mothers sitting there, watching over their tiny babies. Their fear, their uncertainty, their angst is palpable. But even when you yourself were right there in the fire, and all you have left are the memories both good and bad, there is nothing you can do but watch the others burn. It is a battle that no-one else can fight for you and no-one else can ease your burden. Having been there, it never stops touching you in ways you can’t explain. You have received exclusive membership to a club you never wanted to be a part of.