Our Sandy experience was uneventful in the extreme. I'm thinking of those who are still in the middle of it. Life without power gets old after the first 24, and I can't even speak to the stress of worrying over loved ones or losing a home. I think the story of the NYU Medical Center evacuation (and here), which included an evacuation of their NICU, caught the attention of every preemie parent out there.
Many NICU parents (mothers?) feel intense guilt and lingering emotional distress from the experience. I was the opposite of a calm and reasonable NICU parent in that I was high strung, angry, freaked out, terrified and generally difficult to deal with. B was, as always, the good cop in that situation, and for every time that she talked me down she deserves an extra gold star. But since LB came home, my NICU memories have faded. Intellectually I know that was an incredibly hard time for me, but my memories are good. When I think of the NICU now I remember cuddling a little LB, and our gentle routine of nights in the NICU, but all the fear and anger has faded.
One of my worst freak-outs was one night when I called to check on LB, and the phone in the Step-Down Unit rang and rang and no one picked up. That had never happened before. At the time, LB was generally very stable, but sometimes had bad blue episodes where she required significant help to get her heart rate back up. The episodes were terrifying for us, made worse because they seem to freak out the nurses, who, no matter how often we warned them, always seemed shocked that LB could go from totally fine to really not good in an instant with no warning. As the phone rang and rang, I could only imagine that LB had coded in the tiny Step-Down Unit with its one nurse. I imagined a team working on LB, ignoring the ringing phone. B said she would drive me back to the NICU, but then I was able to get through to the main unit. But by then I was done, just hysterical and sick with worry.
Years before, I'd seen news the Katrina NICU evacuation and wondered at the horror of having your tiny baby shipped off to God-knows where, with limited communications lines. While LB was in the NICU, I lived in fear of a winter storm like the one that had come the year before and shut down the city for at least a week. Reading those stories about the NYU NICU brought back all those bad memories. As a not super emotional person, that distress has been mostly generalized queasy feelings and snapishness. I hope all those NICU parents are finding some relief and those babies are sleeping easy tonight.
This post brought to you by Prematurity Awareness Month!