Is This Feeling Normal? {Anxiety Surrounding PreTerm Delivery & the NICU}

:: Beep, beep, beep ::

The noises from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit are like no other. There is a constant beeping and humming from the machines and monitors. And every now and then when those more alert alarms go off, everyone in the unit seems to hold their breath.

The week of my second son being born, I was a mess. I was in shock delivering a baby over 3 months early and I felt like a zombie. I didn’t even remember seeing my son the day he was born. Supposedly I was rolled into the NICU and saw him, but I didn’t even remember at the time.

I felt so guilty not remembering that I met my son. How could I forget? All I could remember those first few days were the beeping noises, the smell of hand sanitizer and being so incredibly afraid. After being discharged, I had an uncontrollable urge to be with my son at home where things were “normal” but also at my micro preemies bedside in the NICU.  The short drive from my home to the hospital was spent in tears multiple times a day.

I never knew anyone who had a child in the NICU before; I didn’t know if how I was feeling was “normal.” I knew something wasn’t right but then again, I didn’t know how I was supposed to feel. Was this postpartum depression? Baby Blues? With not knowing exactly where to look, I called my OB/GYN’s office.

As the nurse got on the phone, I just bursted into tears. The type of hysterical crying where you can’t catch your breath. While I began explaining how I felt to her, I became embarrassed. I’m supposed to keep it all together, all the time! I am the mom! But here I am, basically having a breakdown on the phone.

I felt like a failure. I felt like my body failed me by delivering months early. That I failed my son, by not keeping him safe and delivering full term. And also that I’m failing my son at home and my husband, I’m torn by where to be and when; I felt like everything I was doing was wrong. I didn’t want to tell my parents, my sisters, or my friends about how I was feeling. However, looking back, I’m sure they noticed it.

Per my doctor’s instructions, I began seeing a therapist. She also prescribed medication but I was very hesitant at first. After a few therapy appointments, I decided to pick up the prescription and began medication in addition to therapy. My thoughts of being weak and embarrassed slowly went away.  

Why is there such a stigma regarding this? When we are have a cold or the flu, we are quick to head to the doctor or urgent care. We don’t think twice to protect ourselves and get the flu shot or take medication to fight a sinus infection. However, if it has to do with our mental and emotional health, we tend to hide it and ignore it. We don’t make it a priority.

As women, we need to give ourselves some grace. Pregnancy and birth are huge milestones in our lives. While at times things may look picture perfect from the outside, those may be suffering internally. When you go to your checkup after birth, tell your nurse and doctor how you are feeling. Don’t downplay anything, speak up for yourself. You owe it to yourself to be the best YOU you can be. Take care of yourself Momma, you deserve it.

Mary Olivio
Mary is a caffeine addicted boy mom to Noah, Liam and Luke. This “stay at home” mom can typically been found cruising in her minivan, jamming to Beyonce with a Starbucks in hand on her way to carpool or after school activities. Mary has been married to her high school sweetheart since 2007. She is a founder of Delivering Hope NOLA and the Vanessa Wolff Scholarship Fund at her Alma Mater. Mary is passionate in the local preemie community and has been heavily involved with the March of Dimes since her sons Liam and Luke were born premature.


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