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For all of the babies and their families

  • Author: Shannyn Moore
    | Opinion
  • Updated: August 26
  • Published August 26

(Pixabay)

In past years, I've always been raring to go — earlier than many wanted me to. Oh, this isn't about if the Sox will make the World Series this year, though that does take a fair amount of my waking thoughts. This is in regard to who will be living in Alaska's house, the governor's mansion in Juneau, after our next election. Walker has filed to run again. Begich is kicking the tires on the Democratic ticket. Folks are trying to draft Bill Wielechowski to give it a go. Mike Dunleavy is writing "Governor Dunleavy" on his TrapperKeeper.

I'm trying to get my head around what this means for down-ticket races and for the future of our state. I don't yet have the words to describe how disappointed I've been the last several years. The one thing I know for sure is Sean Parnell lost his job, and that's still a good thing.

I'll write more on the governor's race soon. Our family is getting ready to celebrate a couple of important birthdays and I'm reminded of where we were four years ago.

Pop Moore has a story about visiting orphanages in Russia. There were so many children that they weren't held. The visitors were instructed not to pick them up. They would cry, unable to process the sensation of touch.

Initially, I tried to apply this study to Alaskans. Our suicide rates are so sadly high. It's easy to feel isolated here. Then I thought of the epidemic of military and veteran suicide. The inability to connect upon return and the unbearable loneliness.

We have patches, pills and gum to help people stop smoking. It's an acknowledged risk. We diet, have gym memberships and spend billions of dollars to look like the covers of magazines.

But loneliness? How do we abate that? We're dying of it. Being alone doesn't mean you're lonely, and being with the wrong person can be the loneliest you will ever be. There's a difference between solitude and loneliness.

Four years ago, my nephew came into the world. He came early.

It had been more than 17 years since I gave birth to my parents' first grandchild. Six years since a second, a boy, joined our family. That year, both my sisters announced new babies would be arriving. More little Moores!

The anticipation, and excitement — wondering who these little people will be. The preparation was fierce.

My nephew was born early, and has some catching up to do.

I spent a great deal of time at Providence hospital — specifically the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

There is a hive of life and death and taking and giving. It is the NICU. The opposite of evil and hate in this world is embodied in the men and women who serve the babies and their families — including mine.

There is a constant reminder of the fragility and strength of our human state. Babies who are measured in grams are growing under constant care from the angels who walk among us. Strangers who stood with me while we scrubbed in would ask me how I was doing. I'd ask them. All fighting the loneliness that comes with zero control and worry and saying our hopes out loud. There is something about that place that equalizes everyone there — we all worry and hope and love and touch; no matter how connected a family on the outside, inside everyone is the same, rooting for health and growth.

I remembered how to pray that week. Not just for my family but for the families who hadn't had their prayers answered. Being exposed to the grief of a stranger is indescribable. There is nothing to say or do — you can ignore it but you can't fix it. Sometimes a hard thing is just a hard thing — and you have to share it to divide it. The celebration of an NICU graduate is multiplied among the families. The math of human feeling doesn't always make sense.

Touching, holding, talking to — this, along with all the medical attention, grows babies. It reminds them to keep breathing, to stay.

Babies get lonely. We all do.

When my daughter was 3, we were grocery shopping. From her seat in the cart she noticed a woman. We were in the freezer section.

"Mommy, that lady is lonely," she told me. I turned to see an elderly woman walking away from us. I looked at her cart. TV dinners. I made up a narrative in my head to explain her. I guessed she'd cooked dinners for a husband for years and couldn't bring herself to cook for herself.

"I gave her one of my smiles," my girl said.

I can only hope her tiny smile made a difference. The fact that she noticed made a difference to me.

To the staff at the NICU, my deepest respect and awe to you who serve our community, who spend your workdays tending to the taxing needs of the tiniest among us. I still don't believe you can pay people to love — but you bring that to work every day. Thank you. Every year I remember how you have made so many birthdays possible.

To the lonely who read this, I wish for you touch, and care and love.

To the little boys in my life, I love you. I'll try to figure out this governor situation before you head to kindergarten.

Shannyn Moore is a radio broadcaster.

The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary@alaskadispatch.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@alaskadispatch.com.

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