Where Am I? Who Am I? Stream of consciousness in the NICU.

The raw emotions of a new mother of a baby born premature.

By Pat Linkhorn

Where am I? What are all these tubes for? Who are all these people? The machines! Am I some place in the future? Is this what happens when you eat anchovy pizzas before bed?

Wait.. I remember. Oh my God! Where's my baby?

Wait, here comes someone. Hey lady! Can you tell me what's going on? Is this a dream? No, not a shot. I need some answers!


Wow! What a terrible dream! I'm in a strange place and there were all these machines and tubes. I'm almost afraid to open my eyes. What if I'm still there? Hey, it must not have been a dream because all that stuff is still here. Maybe I've turned into Alice and I'm in Wonderland. More like Horrorland, if you ask me. But I'm beginning to remember. I thought the baby had given my kidneys a real healthy kick, but they told me it was my water breaking But I just started my Lamaze classes, so that can't be.

They put me in that back room and it was hurting so bad! My back was killing me. They had that belt thingamajig around my stomach. Wasn't it supposed to tell them I was in labor? Good thing that older nurse came back and was able to tell them I really was in labor. Who knows what would have happened. But wait. What did happen? THE DELIVERY ROOM! I remember now. But where's the baby? I saw her. She was moving. Where did they take her?

Oh good. Here comes my husband. He'll tell me what happened. Wait. What's that he's saying? Just over a pound? They're coming to get her? WHO'S COMING TO GET HER? I want to see her! Leave me alone. I don't like what you're saying. My baby will live. She has to!

What? I'll get to see her before they come? Can I hold her? No?????? Oh, she has to stay in the, what was it you called it? The incubator, yes that's it. Well. okay, if she has to.

Here they come with her now. Dear Lord, I've seen newborn puppies bigger than her. What are all those tubes and wires for? She looks so uncomfortable. Don't all those things hurt her?

Okay, I know they're here to take her. Can I go too? Tomorrow? But I want to go with her now! So what if I leave anyway? That's my baby! Oh, all right. I'll go back to bed, but I will leave tomorrow. You have MY word on that. At least leave that picture with me.

Please, Mom, Dad, Gary, go home. I'm tired. I want to sleep. No, I'll be okay. Please, just leave.

Yes, I want to talk to a doctor. I need some answers. What's he saying? Intubated? What? The next 48 hours are what? Oh, crucial. Yes, I understand that word.

Does she stand a chance, Doctor? Is she suffering? Oh, they don't feel pain. (Does he think I'm an idiot?) She can't cry? Oh, because of the oxygen tube. Yes, I understand. She looked like she was crying though.

20% chance. Yes, I understand percentages. But it gets better with each hour? She did breathe on her own for a while though didn't she? Yes, I understand that her lungs aren't completely developed yet.

Hey, I'll pray, okay? Thanks for answering my questions Doctor. Yes, I'll be okay. Tired now.

Dear God, Please,- please, please. I'm begging you. Don't let her die. Please let her live.

Next day:

She's still alive? Hey, I knew she could do it. Why you should have felt how hard she could kick!

What? No, I don't want a shot to dry up my milk. Yes, I'm sure. Hey lady, I'm sure, so leave with that needle.

I want to go see my baby. What? A name? We hadn't decided on one yet. Wait, let me call my husband. He doesn't care, so, I'll call her Krystal. Krystal Leighann. No, it's L-e-i-g-h-a-n-n. Yes, I'm sure. I don't care how other people spell it. And Krystal is spelled with a K and an a-1. No, I don't want that shot.

Later: (driving to the hospital)

What? I don't want to talk about where we'll bury her because she's NOT going to die! Okay, have it your way. Make your plans, but don't count on me and Krystal being there for the funeral, because that little girl is going to live.

I'm not upset. Don't worry. I'll be all right. Is that all the faster you can drive?

At the NICU:

God, my hands are shaking. She's in that room? Sure I'll wash my hands and put that gown on. Time to go in. Calm down... walk slowly... What a horrible place! I'm in a time warp. This can't be happening to me. Where is she? Way back in that comer? Breathe, breathe deeply. Stay calm. All the other babies look so much bigger! She doesn't even have enough meat on her for there to be a crack in her little butt. It's perfectly flat.

God, please help this little girl. She's made it this long. Please help her. Please.

What? Apnea? Levels? Monitor" Why can't I understand these people? Why won't they look at me? If just don't cry and try to look like I'm in control, maybe they'll tell me more. I wish my hands would stop shaking. I wish I could wake up. This can't really be happening to me. I know, if I see the White Rabbit, I'll know it's a dream. Just white uniforms, no White Rabbit. It must be real.

How am I supposed to act? Did they teach us this in school. Maybe they did and I just can't remember. How can these young kids be doctors? Why are they so rude? Why won't they give me straight answers?

Hey, it's worked so far, acting like I'm in control. But don't they know I NEED to cry? Don't they realize that I can't keep this all inside? But if I do they'll make me leave and I want to stay with my baby. She's so tiny and helpless. Look she's gained a silly millimeter. Hold on there. Laughter is just as dangerous as crying. They'll think I've lost it. What is the proper protocol here? Can anyone tell me how I am supposed to act? Can anyone understand?

The doctor's act as if I'm invisible. Please just explain what that means. Just once. I'll go home and I'll look it up and I'll never ask again. Just please, tell me in English. She's MY baby. I have the right to know.

Oh, here comes that nice vent person. I'll be able to find out more from him than all these people put together. He acts as if I have a brain.

Everyone acts as if I am made of glass and will break any moment. Don't they know I shattered a long time ago? And I'm still functioning. Trying to always be in control only makes it harder, but everyone shies away from the slightest indication of tears. Can anyone understand? Can anyone help me?

I want to wake up. I don't want to be here and my name isn't Alice.