My lovely friend who just had her baby found herself in the NICU for a couple days. You’d think after spending so much time in the NICU myself, I would know what to say to make her feel better.
Except, I didn’t really. We may have both ended up in the NICU but our journeys were so different. Jas and I knew our girls would be early and we knew they’d be spending time in the NICU. After waiting so long to get pregnant and then 39 long weeks anticipating her arrival, you don’t expect to end up in the NICU.
It seems that when things like this happen, our natural response is to compare our own experiences, to talk about how we understand because, hey, we’ve been there. But, we don’t really.
I understand many of the feelings that she must have; the fear, anxiety, uncertainty, doubt, loneliness. The feelings of being unable to parent when every fiber of your being is telling you to pick up your baby and hold them.
But I don’t know what it’s like to have a full-term baby return to the hospital, and although the girls endured so much, they never had jaundice. Even if our story was similar, or even exactly the same, our experience of it would differ. You know that saying about walking in someone else’s shoes? Well, unless you’re me walking in my fabulous Sam Edelmans, you don’t know what it was like and how I felt, and that’s ok. It’s not about telling people you get it or you understand or you’ve been there. It’s about just being there and listening and not making it about you.
Yes, our paths took us down a similar road, but our journeys there are different and special, just like our babies.