Spoiler ALERT – stop reading here if you haven’t seen the latest This is Us.
Like much of America, I watched teary-eyed when Kate had baby Jack on This Is Us and was placed in the NICU. In an instant, I was transported back two years to when my own baby was born. For so many of us, Jack reminded us of our own NICU babies. Tiny, innocent and in a scary place fighting for their lives. Covered in wires, feeding tubes and monitors, a tiny bundle of barely-recognizable baby.
However, unlike so many of those babies, my son was born full-term, healthy and came home from the hospital with me; only to land in the NICU after an accident would leave him with a stroke and fighting for his life in our local children’s hospital. Days filled with a revolving door of specialists and tests, victories and setbacks—just like our preemie counterparts. A different path to entry, but the journey of a lifetime just the same.
We’re the families of the forgotten warriors. The “other” NICU parents. The ones with the 7-pound babies. Parents who rejoiced at a healthy birth only to be blindsided by the NICU. Those who feel like we don’t quite fit in but are fighting for our babies just the same. Families experiencing the same fears, tears and worries.
We watch Kate, Toby and baby Jack, tears streaming down our faces too. We know those scary days. The NICU monitors whose sound we can conjure up in a split second. Memories of touching their tiny feet in the hopes of coaxing their heart rate back to normal again after a brady episode. We know days without holding our sweet baby, and the sweet victory of snuggling them once again. When they packed up baby Jack for the journey home I cheered them on, remembering every moment of that bittersweet day. We were ecstatic to take our son home, but terrified to be on our own.
While This Is Us brings all the preemie parents together, remember these parents. Your fellow NICU moms and dads. Remember us too—our journey is different, but we stand in solidarity with the preemie parents. We are all NICU families, proud parents of our tiny, medically complex warriors. We’re honored to be part of your village and celebrate our tiny ones and all their baby steps alongside you.