I was always one of those kids who couldn’t figure out who I was.
I would throw myself into something and that was what defined me. Once it was being a super liberal peace-loving vegan (showering was still allowed, though). Sometimes I think running was the same way, although I still love it. Now, though, I have a new identity and I’m struggling a little to understand how the pieces fit.
In the NICU, they call you “Mom yourlastname”, which I find so weird. I don’t feel like someone’s mom. I’m parenting light (I totally stole that phrase from someone else, but it really does describe the experience). How can I be her mom when I can’t even take her out of her incubette without a nurse? I don’t get a say about anything (ok, theoretically I do, but how do you tell the doctor no when you know they have to do what they are “asking” to do? And that’s id they even bother to ask). I don’t get to comfort her when she cries, I can’t feed her, and I can’t even introduce her to her aunt (parents and grandparents only during flu season). I can’t even dress her depending on who the nurse is.
But eventually she comes home and I get to be her mom for real.
And in other ways, I’ve totally embraced parenting. Wake up every 2-3 hours to pump breast milk because it can keep her from getting a horrible bowel disease? On it. Change nasty breastmilk poop diapers because that’s all I’m allowed to do for her? No problem. Spend 3-4 hours a day with my baby even though all but one of those is just holding her hand and staring at her? No problem. Work on my dissertation because she needs me to finish the damn thing? I submitted the first full draft yesterday and already finished the edits on the first four chapters.
I think I finally realized I was a parent when she was a week old. The nurse was told to start a peripheral IV, so I sat and held a sugar water (baby crack) pacifier in her mouth for over an hour while the nurses stabbed her 5 times. I was asked multiple times if I wanted to step out, but I wanted to be there with my baby while she was in pain. I knew she needed the IV, so I could understand why they had to keep sticking and leaving her just felt like the wrong thing. She hurt and needed someone to be there (she does seem to know who I am, at least judging by the chest licking).
At the same time, though, no one even bothers to update us on medical procedures unless we think to ask. I shouldn’t overhear that my daughter is due for an eye exam this week and have to ask about it. I should be told that is the plan. How can anyone feel like a parent when they are constantly excluded from even knowing what is going on?
I think it’s also hard because my time with her feels like a different universe than when I’m home, Sure, I pump breastmilk round the clock at home and at the NICU, but the NICU is a weird little corner of the world where cell phones are banned and I spend most of my time alone. Coming home is always the longest, most exhausting part of my day and then I get my second wind once I’m home. It’s just so strange and disjointed feeling. Kind of like this post.
It’s really hard to blog when you never sleep.