Four years post-NICU and the triggers for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) are still there.
I’d like to blame it on pregnancy hormones, and perhaps that’s what it is, but the moment when I think I’ve put it all behind me, the reminders rear their ugly heads.
Just last week, a friend posted on Facebook of how her four-year-old finally drew a person, complete with a head, arms and legs. I broke down and started crying. Fine motor skills, while improving, still allude Luke. Will he master them eventually? No doubt. Will he have the best handwriting in the class? Probably not. And I’m okay with that. It was just another reminder of something he has yet to overcome. Another mountain to climb. Another therapist to love (and boy, do we love her). I’m quite positive my friend didn’t sit down at her computer, post the photo and think, “I really hope this makes Kathryn cry.” No, I’m pretty sure she was proud of her child, and rightfully so.
But when the normal for someone else is your child’s nemesis, it’s hard to rein in your emotions. And when you’re pregnant all bets are off.
Then, a few days ago as we were traveling to yet another specialist visit I spotted the emergency transport ambulance. The same one that carried our barely breathing, very sick, we weren’t sure if he’d make it through the night, son to the local children’s hospital. I completely missed the left turn signal and had cars honking at me because I was just frozen. I couldn’t shake the memory of that scary evening. For me, that’s the big trigger. When I see that damn Acadian ambulance I have to take deep breaths and talk myself off the ledge.
I know this is normal. I know that I’m not alone. And, I also know that not everyone understands why it can be so hard to let those things go, to move on.
With every passing month, I remind myself of Luke’s little leaps forward that really are huge steps in his world.
Potty training at 4.
Eating solid foods without throwing up at 3.5.
Talking at 3.
Sleeping through the night (um, yeah, still working on that one).
From the kid who is missing half a colon and a fair amount of small intestine. The one who survived necrotizing enterocolitis not once, but twice. The one who has been in speech therapy for three years and feeding therapy for almost the same. For a kid who spent more time in the hospital than out of it his first six months of life. He has made amazing, and often referred to, astounding, progress.
His mom on the other hand? Some days I’m not so sure. I do know what gets me through the hard days. A phone call with a good friend I met during one of Luke’s hospital stays. A hug from his feeding therapist. A “we’ll figure this out” and other reassuring words from my husband. Time in adoration.
Every day I suppose I make progress, too. The joys outweigh the sadness. The accomplishments outnumber the obstacles. The peace surpasses the fear. Just as our NICU stay was a marathon, not a sprint, so is our recovery as a preemie parent. I won’t ever shake that title. I do, however, embrace the life lessons it’s given us.