It happened again today.
I had a dream while napping with Cole, a dream about the NICU. It was raining, because it was always raining while we were at the NICU. I was standing outside the doors and people were coming in and out, chatting happily. It was busy, busy because it was Father's Day. I had a plastic bag in my hand, filled with bags for breastmilk, freenugeek and preemie sleepers. I was looking for someone, someone I had to give this bag too.
The nurses buzzed me into the unit and I saw the women who needed the supplies. I smiled at her and walked forward... only to wake up.
I hardly ever dream of the NICU. I remember one vivid dream, the day Georgie came off the vent. I dreamt they put him back on it; I dreamt of fear.
Mostly, I deal with flashbacks; sudden, vivid memories that overwhelm me and make me feel like I've been punched in the gut. They can come on suddenly, without warning, at the most random of times. I've had flashbacks to his baptism while teaching classes to small children. I've thought of his emergency transport simply because I've driven past the hospital where he and Cole were born. Those small ones, I can deal with. Walking into the hospital on the anniversary of his due date to bring Christmas goodies to the parents of current NICU SuperBabies? That left me curled up on the couch sobbing so hard I couldn't speak, clinging to Georgie as if he was my life vest and I was drowning.
In a sense, I was.
I've been doing so well since Cole was born. I haven't had any flashbacks, any trauma, any anxieties. I was lulled into a false sense of security. I know I wasn't healed; I will never be fully healed. But better? Yes, I was doing better.
A friend posted on Facebook about a baby currently in the NICU who needs breastmilk. He has NEC and human milk would be much, much easier on his gut than formula. I have milk I am willing to donate and after speaking to my friend and the baby's mother, I was able to find people who were willing to give their milk to this little guy. Currently, we have over 80 ounces waiting for him.
When I talked to my friend on the phone, she filled me in on how this SuperBaby in Training was doing. He was born at a much younger gestation than George and has more complications than my son. Yet, while talking to her, I was brought clearly back to the NICU, to standing in Georgie's room. The cold, hard dread formed in my stomach and I remembered seeing a cute little puppy outfit hanging in our laundry room, a surprise from my mother. I remembered refusing to wash it because I was afraid my son, my big strong baby who "only" had RDS, would not come home. I remembered the darkness of his room, the noise of the monitors, the longing to simply touch him. I remembered holding him while he had an apnea spell. I remembered talking to a nurse and suddenly hearing alarm bells go off. A baby was coding. I wonder often if that baby survived.
When I got off the phone, I was able to shake off the feeling, the memories. Or so I thought.
The more I deny it, the more it is there. The longer I refuse to think about it, the stronger it becomes, until it overrides my subconscious and I am haunted in my dreams.
I want to think the PTSD will go away. I want to think I will one day I will no longer have flashbacks. I want to think I never again be overwhelmed by memories.
I know better.
The times between flashbacks, between dreams, between down-in-my-gut pain that brings me to my knees will become longer. Weeks and months will go by. It will take stronger triggers, more of them... but they will always be there, lurking, waiting for that moment of weakness.
At the end of the day, I can drown in my memories, let them control me... or I can acknowledge them, grab them by the horns and roll with them. They can control me or I can control them.I can chose what will rule: me or the PTSD?
I had a horrible dream this afternoon. I dreamt of the NICU and a mother and baby who need help. I dreamt of alarms and breastfeeding and tiny blue sleepers. It was a bit unexpected and weird and not comforting. It was part of my day but not all of it. It made me stop and think and remember.
But it didn't control my day.