During Eliza's first month in the NCCU the only people I really spoke in depth to were her nurses and doctors. The other parents in the ICU room at the time had all gone through their own special versions of hell. Two had lost a twin, one lost her surviving twin, another barely spoke English and was just trying to understand her son's condition. They all shared concerned looks and quiet hellos, but had too much to deal with to worry about making me feel welcome in this strange place.
After Eliza's first month though a new couple arrived with their son, a full term baby who was a bit of a medical mystery at the time. We exchanged a few glances at first, I shared what little NCCU knowledge had I gathered (critical things like which bathroom to use!). After they settled in and we all realized that we were there for the long haul, we formed a friendship and a bond that truly helped me stay sane during those long 100 days. When people ask me how best to survive the NCCU I tell them to look around the room, find the person or people who are in the same "boat" as you and try to form a friendship since those people will offer you a unique kind of support that no friend or family member can provide, since they really do know what you are going through. Friends and family can provide shoulders to lean on but they can only guess what it is like to not know if your child will survive the night or what it is like to leave your child in the care of others when that baby should be home with you.Having formed a friendship in the NCCU allowed the three of to almost normalize our existence. We visited our children at the same time, gossiped about the same things (usually the annoying parents whose children were in the NCCU 48 hours but whined incessantly about everything), complained about the same things and most importantly shared out victories, like being weaned off a ventilator. Strange as it may sound, there were even things to laugh about now and again in the NCCU and it was so very, very good to have someone to share a bit of black humor with.
Eliza's "good days and bad days" continued but eventually the good days outnumbered the bad days. When her discharge date came in late June 2006, I was ecstatic to be bringing her home, but oddly saddened to leave what had become our little NCCU family. My friends and I had agreed we would try our best to arrange our babies' discharge dates as close as possible, and luckily they were able to leave a week after Eliza was discharged.
Photo: Eliza Grace 75 Days Old