On having a new identity

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.

At least I've finally won the battle on her wearing clothes. It makes me feel better, even if it's stupid.

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.


About Sarah S @RunningOnWords

Married 20-something in flux and trying to cope by running and occasionally crafting.
This entry was posted in Leapster, NICU, Parenting, Preemie. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to On having a new identity

  1. Mandy says:

    I already told you my vehement thoughts on them not discussing procedures with you!

    Becoming a mom for the first time is a surreal enough experience on it’s own. I can’t even pretend to fully grasp what you are going through. If possible, I have an even higher opinion of you today than I did not long ago. I’m always a phone call and a brief drive away if you need anything!

  2. Kari @ Running Ricig says:

    Seriously, don’t feel like you need to blog for us. You have WAY more important things to deal with.

  3. Kara says:

    Just think of her as not really born yet. When you were pregnant you weren’t “really” in charge of feeding her or getting to know her. That will happen after she’s “born” or out of the NICU. My friend who has babies in the NICU for months told me this, so if it doesn’t make sense, I blame her.

  4. Terzah says:

    I just wrote this huge long comment, and WordPress ate it because I hadn’t logged in. Sigh. So here’s the summary:

    1) I like what Kara says. I did exactly that until we got to my kids’ due date six weeks after their actual birth. It sounds weird, but it helps. The nurses may be calling the shots right now, but just think of them as impartial body parts like the umbilical cord. Sure, they are very important, but do you remember your umbilical cord? Me either. I remember my mom. :^)

    2) You shouldn’t worry about blogging with all you’ve got going on (unless it helps!). I hate being called “Mom” by anyone except a certain two people (to anyone but Will and Ruthie, I always want to say, hey, I have a first name!). And this is your daughter and you shouldn’t have to find out about her tests/procedures via “overhearing.”

    3) Try to sleep when you can grab it. It helps, even just a paltry amount. And if you need anything that a virtual friend can provide, I’m happy to do it!!

  5. Abby says:

    Sarah, I know I haven’t been commenting much because I don’t have a whole lot to contribute on the parenting front, but I wanted to let you know that I’m still reading and thinking about you! My mom told me once that she began to identify as “adult” when she became a parent, but I’ve never asked her what it felt like to identify as “mom.” I imagine for some people it’s the kind of thing that sneaks up on you and for others it’s a very conscious, intentional shift. But doing it as a NICU parent – that has to add a whole different dimension!

  6. mydogscuter says:

    No matter what activities you engage in, you are still always Sarah. Sarah the runner. Sarah the (former) vegan. Sarah the student. Sarah the wife. Sarah the (soon-to-be) Ph.D. Sarah the blogger. Sarah (oh so recently), Charlotte’s mother. Each of those is simply a vehicle through which you infuse the world with your quirky, special, (now especially tired and possibly cranky) Sarah-ness. The one. The only. I value your Sarahness in whatever form it is currently glowing.

  7. I obviously don’t have any experience, but I like what Kara said. I don’t like how they aren’t informing you of anything. Overhearing is not how it should go!

  8. Laura says:

    That sounds so, so hard. Especially waking up every 2-3 hours to an alarm clock, rather than a crying baby! I’m counting down the days for you… but I am thankful that she’s here, and healthy, and in good hands.

  9. kat9365 says:

    omg Sarah… there are no words to describe how I feel reading this post. I can’t imagine what you are going through and yet my heart aches for you.

  10. From one NICU momma to another I totally relate. Every time the nurses called me mom… I felt like it was the strangest thing in the world. I would also get really frustrated with some of the nurses that were in charge of my son. I felt like some of them were kinda… mean. We were in one of those rooms a week and a half. It was so nice to nurse and pump privately at the bedside. My son was discharged yesterday at 38 weeks and 1 day.

    Being a NICU mom isn’t easy. Hang in there.

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