There is crying everywhere, here. But not the kind of cries you hear from the full-term nursery. Not those throaty wails that are quickly quelled by the milk and warm skin of their mothers. No, here in the NICU they are whimpers. Rasps. Gasps. They sound akin to the meow of a cat after it has fallen from a bridge into a river and swam a hundred feet to shore. Or the moan of a dog with a broken spirit, beaten and starved. They are the most pitiful sounds you have ever heard. To hear such a sound would spurn any parent to rush ever faster to the side of their child and make their sorrows go away. Here, its the opposite, by sheer necessity. It couldn't be any other way. So very often, in reply to their meager cries, they are pricked with a needle or feeding tubes are forced down their throats or plastic lines are threaded through their bodies. It only makes them try to cry louder. They open their mouths to shriek for help--- “someone is hurting me!”--- but instead of a shriek you instead hear a gargle or a low toned whine until, in some cases, they become too exhausted to cry any longer.
Still, nothing breaks my heart more than watching you. When you are jabbed or jostled, you flail your arms and legs furiously. You furrow your brow and your mouth opens wide and with an impassioned thrust of your body… no cry comes out. You can’t even call for help.