NICU Journey – Part 1

Throwback Thursday – Life before LCA

Everyone knows what the NICU is. But you don’t know what the NICU feels like until you get there.

I never expected to end up there when I found out I was pregnant with my second. But when my amniotic fluid started leaking at 16 weeks pregnant it became clear that there was only two ways this could go. And let’s just say that premature birth was my best case scenario.

Photo of newborn Charlotte laying in a open incubator in the NICU.
Charlotte Grace

I went through hell with that pregnancy and was terrified for most of it. But my little fighter held out. It wasn’t until 35 weeks and 3 days that she was showing signs of distress and I was carted off for an emergency c-section.

She was taken to the NICU before I was put back together and I didn’t get to really hold her for over an hour. The nurse said they’d take me to her on the way to post partum and that was the first time I entered the NICU.

It was a weird and scary feeling. It was kind of dark because it was evening. And since Charlotte was a new arrival she was in the most critical section for the time being with one nurse to a max of two babies. The main thing I remember from that moment is the beeping from all of the monitors.

The baby beside her was a mere 1 pound. A micro preemie. Charlotte looked out of place next to her. After all she was a whopping 6 pounds 3 oz, quite large for a preemie.

I only got to hold her for just a few minutes before the nurse said she needed to take me to post partum.

I had just had a major surgery but I wanted to see my baby. One nurse told me that since Charlotte was doing so well with no issues they might release her to my room the next day.

So I used everything I had left to make myself stand because all I needed to do was move from the bed to a wheel chair to go back and visit. I wanted to bond and breastfeed and ensure she was doing well enough to be released to me, where she belonged.  

I spent the entire night awake with her and then went back to my room for a little rest when my mom needed to get going home. A few hours later, alone at the hospital, I needed to be able to walk all the way from post partum to the NICU if I wanted to go. It was an excruciating walk with my barely held together body.

Photo of Charlotte as a newborn laying on my lap holding my finger with both hands. she has monitors on her chest and a nose tube in.
Bonding with Mom.

That walk felt a little longer each time I did it.

When I entered the NICU I went back to her spot only to discover she wasn’t there. They had moved her to the final section, where you go before you go home. Which I found out after the panic of not being able to find my baby. And that is when I first felt like I had no say over my own daughter.

They told me she was doing well but was slow on her bottles. And said if she didn’t finish her bottle the next feed they would put a nose tube in. Then my unit called me to come back so the doctor could check on my incision. I told the nurse I’d be back to feed her as soon as I could. And I started the long walk back.

When I made it back to the NICU the tube was in. I was angry and upset. They didn’t even ask me. Isn’t this my baby, don’t I have a say?

The tube meant a 3 day stay at least because they wouldn’t discharge until it had been out for 2 days.

Those next couple days were emotionally exhausting. I was furious that my nurse wouldn’t even let me attempt to breastfeed (the NICU time affected my breastfeeding journey greatly) and I was in major pain from pushing myself so hard after surgery.

Photo of Charlotte on my lap on a pillow sleeping. All the moniotrs are on her and she has a nose tube in.
Snoozing.

The NICU is a place of high emotions. There was honestly a point I felt like they just wanted to keep my baby there because she was cute (irrational post partum hormones talking).

As much as you appreciate everything the NICU does for babies, being there during the already fragile post partum period is extremely hard emotionally and can bring out feelings you don’t expect.

When I got a different night nurse I figured it was my chance to advocate for breastfeeding. He told me if she did breast and bottle well through the night he’d take the tube out. And so we did it.

It was the first time through this experience that I felt heard. The first time I felt like I was her parent.

Photo of Hailey holding newborn Charlotte. Hailey is cuddling her.
Sister Cuddles.

This nurse advocated for me with the doctors and he did everything he could to get us on the road to discharge.

The next night we were in the rooming in room. It’s kind of like a hotel room in the ward often used for parents who live out of town or for a trial run of having the baby off monitors and with parents for a night before discharge.

That night was when Hailey could finally meet her sister. It was all consuming in the NICU and I felt bad for having Hailey be so left behind on those days. The next afternoon was going to be Hailey’s 4th birthday party and I remember her asking me if I was going to be there. I wanted to be there SO badly because I already felt like I had abandoned her since having Charlotte but I was also scared (overtired and a bit paranoid) that if I left they would put the nose tube back in Charlotte.

Luckily I still had my male nurse and he advocated for us to the doctors big time. Charlotte had never had breathing problems, never set off the monitors for heart rate or oxygen levels. She was doing good.

Photo of newborn Charlotte in her carseat ready to go home.
Taking Charlotte Home.

The doctor brought me in to examine Charlotte and said “I hear you have a birthday party today” and we were given the green light to finally take our baby home.

When we walked out of the doors with Charlotte in the car seat I was so relieved to say goodbye to the NICU. But I still heard the beeping of monitors and machines and the pulsing of breast pumps for weeks after.

I told myself I would never go back there.

And then came baby number three…

Thank you for reading, stay tuned for part 2!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s