I’m sure everyone has already seen the post over at Stirrup Queens, but just in case I wanted to post it here as well.
The New York Times has a post on post-traumatic stress disorder in NICU parents. It’s sort of one of those “well, duh” things but that’s probably a result of my perspective. I can’t put into words what being a NICU parent was like for those short three weeks and I can only imagine how hard it is for those who survived the NICU only to have to continue facing the on-going issues. I wish the article had addressed parents who didn’t bring their children home from the NICU as well. I think both types of parents suffer from Why-Aren’t-You-Over-It syndrome, which compounds the stress and makes it even harder to seek help.
I know that seventeen months later I still have nightmares; I still find myself suddenly remembering days in the NICU in vivid details, out of the blue in non-related settings…heart-stopping episodes in the grocery store or sitting in Starbucks; I can’t sleep more than I can…unless it’s when I want to be awake, THEN I can’t seem to keep my eyes open; I’ll probably never ride another exercise bike with a heart rate monitor on it; and I have yet to be more than a 30-minute drive away from Shannon. I avoid being around/discussing/overhearing discussion about infants and toddlers. That one takes particular creativity. I find myself imagining horrible accidents happening to other loved ones if I don’t keep a tight rein on my thoughts. What’s the daydream equivalent of a nightmare?
My major accomplishment? Twice I’ve been asked about my necklace and been able to give a neutral explanation without tearing up or giving the asker more information than they wanted.
Fortunately, I don’t have a problem with beeping sounds. From the very beginning in the NICU, we got the nurses and therapists to explain to us how to read the monitors and charts and what each alarm meant. I think being able to separate out the normal beeps from the emergency beeps and being able to distinguish between what was a capital-E emergency beep from a tired baby who needs a little higher oxygen emergency was a life-saver.
I count myself lucky. I do more than function. I do laugh. I don’t think I’ve made so many accomodations out of a need to protect myself that I’ve lost a significant part of my daily life. I continue to move forward.
I never did go to see a therapist. I probably should have but there is so much inertia and anxiety about it. How to find a good therapist. How to find one who isn’t going to bring religion into it (as I looked through the profiles of therapists covered by my insurance I was floored by how many listed faith-based therapy. The ones that didn’t mostly specialized in children and adolescents.). In the end, for better or worse, this is my therapy.