Perseverance Through the Wilderness of the NICU
By: Sarah Ward
Perseverance. A word that many in this ministry know. A word we often need to be reminded of to keep us humble. An important word I instill in my children every day, and a word I say to myself often. This word stood out to me while completing my jog for the Praying Through the Wilderness 5K. As many of you walked or ran in your own way, or did so in spirit, I am sure you started wondering toward the end if you had the perseverance to finish. And those of you who completed it with small children might have wondered if you had the perseverance to get through it in one piece.
Reflection and Perspective
I was able to complete the 5K twice, not necessarily on purpose. I planned to run it with a dear friend who offered to support me and this ministry, just because that’s who she is and she knew it was important to me. Due to scheduling conflicts, we postponed our jog together for the following morning. Having made the commitment to myself, and having precious “me time” set aside already, I decided to just go for it, which was ironic since we also went through the NICU twice. I found my jog to be a wonderful time for reflection and perspective, and realized that many aspects of my jogs resembled moments we experienced in the NICU.
I began and ended the race uphill, which was a lot like our NICU journeys. The first few weeks my daughters were in the NICU were hard to get used to. It was one step forward and two steps back. They would have good days and then regress, but soon they found their rhythm and then it was just a matter of endurance. They were sent to a stepdown unit to grow and meet their milestones before being discharged. For those of you with a longer NICU stay, know that toward the end it may feel like an uphill battle as you work on whatever the last thing is that is holding you back. As you get close to the finish line, you will feel your feet getting tired and muscles aching to just be home already.
Perseverance and Faith
Hebrews 12:1-2 reminds us that we should “...run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
As you get close to the end, hold onto your faith. Faith in your care team to get your child ready. Faith in yourself to make it another day. Faith that you are not alone and God will get you through it all.
I loved how on my second run my faithful friend and I battled the elements of the south (bugs, heat, wildlife, etc.) together. No matter what we came across, I wanted her to know that I was there for her and she wanted me to know that she was there for me. We texted checkpoints, funny photos of what we encountered, and cheesy inspirational quotes to get us through it.
As a mom who has been in the NICU twice, I make it a point to reach out and tell families “You are not alone." The NICU can be isolating, and knowing someone, somewhere, has been down that path and is there saying “You can do it” can mean so much.
I learned this through my second round in the NICU with my son. I did not realize how much I had been affected by our first NICU stay until we re-lived it. Thankfully this time was much shorter, but those feelings all came back. I felt like a failure, those sore muscles started tightening, and my feet felt heavy again. I felt like we had had it all planned out and that this time was supposed to go differently, but that wasn’t the path chosen for us. Plans change; things get rescheduled; you do the race again. Perseverance.
Now that some time has passed, and I am rested and restored by faith, I have some clarity. I want you to know that you will not go down this path alone. God is with you always and will go on this journey with you. He will prepare you to do what you have to in order to finish the race. If you need guidance, look toward scripture. If you need community, find others who have been there and have open conversations. You might feel alone in the wilderness, but you are not. Persevere and your faith will guide you home.
Sarah is a mother to three NICU miracles and author of the children’s book Our NICU Journey. She finds joy in rejoicing in even the smallest victories with others and prays she is able to use every gift God provided to give back to those who need it most.