Dear NICU mama: Your strength is profound—and unexpected

Your experience with your precious baby will be one that, at times, can feel like it is breaking you into a million pieces—but I promise that feeling is just the start of your transformation into a stronger, wiser, humbler version of yourself.

Dear NICU mama: Your strength is profound—and unexpected

Hi mama,

I see you being pushed in a wheelchair through the NICU door with a glazed look in your eyes that could only be a mixture of love, shock, and the most immense emotional and physical pain a mother could experience. You are carrying a small bottle of your "liquid gold" with you for the little one you haven't met yet.

I know it will be heart-wrenching to see your baby this way but this is where they need to be right now. This is where miracles can happen.

Your baby may look smaller and frailer than you had imagined. It might be hard to see their cute little face because they will have so many tubes attached to them to help them breathe and grow, giving baby the support your body once provided.

You will hear a lot of medical terminology like CPAP, NG tube, apnea, Brady's, hematocrit levels, and residuals. It all will probably seem so overwhelming at first, but before you know it, you will understand what they all mean.

You will learn to trust your doctors and nurses who will quickly feel like your second family. You will be so impressed by their competency and guidance and most of all the compassion they show you and your child. I am telling you—they are truly angels on earth.

Mama, I don't know you but I want to be there for you.

I want to comfort you, but the feelings you are probably feeling (that I once felt) are almost impossible to put into words.

I want you to know that I am with you and so are all the other NICU mamas who have come before you.

I want to tell you that everything is going to be okay and things will get better—and it will, but just not right now—not yet.

I want to tell you that this will be one of the most challenging journeys of your life but I know you can do it and you will come out the other side of that NICU door—even stronger and even more grateful than ever.

You will find strength in unexpected moments when you least expect it.

Your experience with your precious baby will be one that, at times, can feel like it is breaking you into a million pieces—but I promise that feeling is just the start of your transformation into a stronger, wiser, humbler version of yourself.

There will be mornings where it will feel like a battle to just get out of bed. You may sit and cry in the shower or your car feeling like you want to stay there forever. Please don't feel guilty. It's okay to experience these feelings— I have been there too.

During those dark times, think of your little warrior. Think about how hard they fight, even when they are tired and sick. Your baby will give you unbelievable strength—the strength that you need to get up out of bed, to feed your baby be it by breast pump or by researching the best formula for them, and walk through that NICU door day after day.

Your baby will inspire you and help you through this as you support them on their journey to becoming the most amazing little person you have ever met.

I do want to tell you that there will also be so many of the other times— the really good times. The times where your heart will have never have felt so full. The times when you hold your baby and look into their precious eyes and all will feel right in the world.

You will watch their tiny frail body transform from wrinkles to chub, and you will cherish every roll with all of your heart. Through this journey, you will constantly be challenged to put things in perspective and this will give you both clarity and a sense of calm—but most of all it will make you feel so grateful for your little fighter.

This experience, as hard as it is, will provide you with a greater sense of self and of the world. Your child will teach you what really matters in life—an understanding that only those who have witnessed such miracles could possibly have. You will no longer take anything for granted. You will see the importance and beauty of health, family, and being able to watch your child grow. You will become the strongest of women. You will be a warrior.

Keep your head up, mama. And remember—you are never alone.


Your Fellow NICU Mama

You might also like:

These are the best bath time products you can get for under $20

These budget-friendly products really make a splash.

With babies and toddlers, bath time is about so much more than washing off: It's an opportunity for fun, sensory play and sweet bonding moments—with the added benefit of a cuddly, clean baby afterward.

Because bathing your baby is part business, part playtime, you're going to want products that can help with both of those activities. After countless bath times, here are the products that our editors think really make a splash. (Better yet, each item is less than $20!)

Comforts Bath Wash & Shampoo

Comforts Baby Wash & Shampoo

Made with oat extract, this bath wash and shampoo combo is designed to leave delicate skin cleansed and nourished. You and your baby will both appreciate the tear-free formula—so you can really focus on the bath time fun.

Munckin Soft Spot Bath Mat

Munchkin slip mat

When your little one is splish-splashing in the bath, help keep them from also sliding around with a soft, anti-slip bath mat. With strong suction cups to keep it in place and extra cushion to make bath time even more comfortable for your little one, this is an essential in our books.

Comforts Baby Lotion

Comforts baby lotion

For most of us, the bath time ritual continues when your baby is out of the tub when you want to moisturize their freshly cleaned skin. We look for lotions that are hypoallergenic, nourishing and designed to protect their skin.

The First Years Stack Up Cups

First year stack cups

When it comes to bath toys, nothing beats the classic set of stackable cups: Sort them by size, practice pouring water, pile them high—your little one will have fun with these every single bath time.

Comforts Baby Oil

Comforts baby oil

For dry skin that needs a little extra TLC, our team loves Comforts' fast-absorbing baby oil aloe vera and vitamin E. Pro tip: When applied right after drying off your baby, the absorption is even more effective.

KidCo Bath Toy Organizer

KidCo Bath Organizer

Between bathing supplies, wash rags, toys and more, the tub sure can get crowded in a hurry. We like that this organizer gives your little one space to play and bathe while still keeping everything you need within reach.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.

And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

Keep reading Show less