I have been wanting to write about our NICU experience for a while, but life has been busy so I kept putting it off. However, September is NICU Awareness Month so I figured it was the perfect time to do some posts on this topic. This post is the first of a three part series that I’ll be sharing this month.
As I write this, I’m sitting here looking at our NICU photos and they are some of the most precious photos I’ve ever laid my eyes on. One of the reasons I’ve put off writing this is because it means I have to revisit all the emotions of the NICU. Feelings of anxiety, worry, fear, sadness, and so much happiness too. Feelings that I left behind 6 months ago when we were able to bring August home. These photos capture our experience so well and I’m eternally grateful for my dear friend who took them for us. They bring back so many feelings from that season of our life. And even though that was a stressful season, they bring me joy. They remind me that we have moved on from that experience, that we are stronger because of it, that we can walk through hard things.
I almost don’t want to write this because those days were some of the most difficult days of my life. But here I sit, typing away. I want this story to be out there- for me, for our family, and for anyone else facing the same struggles we faced. With any type of pain in life comes so much knowledge and many unexpected blessings. We are never the same people we were before we go through a tough trial and there’s so much beauty in that. God is constantly molding us and adjust the sails of our stories. He can pull us through treacherous times and shape us to become better through our trials. That my friends, is nothing short of a miracle. I’m grateful for a God who knows better than I do, who loves us unconditionally, and whose plans always exceed my expectations.
As I look through these photos, I can smell the White Angelica essential oil that I dropped onto my leather braided diffuser bracelet for 17 consecutive days, right next to August’s isolet. I can smell the Lorna Doone shortbread cookies that the nurses brought me to snack on through hundreds of pumping sessions. Those sweet nurses knew I loved them and always kept my table stocked with them. And I can remember the sound of the pump going every 2 hours. It looked like a pump that was invented 100 years ago… but it worked 🙂 you have to find time to laugh in the nicu or you’ll just go insane. I can almost feel that sensation of exhaustion that I had because I just longed to sleep and take my baby home… but I desired just one more feeding, one more moment with my sweet baby. I can remember changing him with trembling hands, because he seemed too small and fragile to even be alive yet.
Those were hard days. But like with anything in life, I tell myself: “Come what may, and love it.”
It’s kind of hard to have your baby in the NICU and love it. It’s hard to love being separated from your baby and see them hooked up to tons of wires and machines. But it’s easy to put your faith in the Lord and believe that his plan is great in all things. Through our whole stay in the nicu I knew that his hand was there, that he heard our cries, and that when I left August at night, he was there with him. He was never alone. And that was comforting to know.
I honestly don’t remember a lot of our NICU stay. August was there for 17 days. Now, that seems like such a short time. But in the midst of things, it felt like an eternity. I think all mothers can agree that any amount of time spent in the NICU is heart-wrenching and far too long of a stay.
August went into the NICU right after he was born and I wasn’t able to see him for a few hours. When I finally did see him, he had a CPAP machine on and we couldn’t even see his tiny face. He was so small, he was swimming in even the tiniest newborn diapers. He received treatments to help him breathe better and by the next day he no longer needed that mask. He spent the majority of his stay in an isolet to regulate his temperature. We needed to keep his body temperature regulated in order for him to gain weight, which meant he could only be out of the isolet and in my arms a couple times a day. Having to put him back in that isolet after feeding and cuddling him was the worst. He was on an IV for fluids the first couple days and received all his breastmilk through an NG tube for the majority of his stay. When he took his first bottle and nursed for the first time it was such a victory.
Two days before he was discharged I asked the nurse if I could start doing double feedings- offering breast first and topping off with the bottle. One of the night nurses suggested this to me, but the day nurse fought me on this. I felt so strongly that this is what needed to happen for August to be able to come home, while also maintaining our breastfeeding relationship. I’m glad I fought for him because before this, he wasn’t taking his bottles consistently. After 24 hours of this, August had made huge leaps and bounds and had taken 90% of his feedings by bottle for a 24 hour period. The next evening, he came home.
Before August was born, I had never known what it was like to have a baby in the nicu, separated from you. I had known people who had babies in the nicu… but I never understood what it was really like. You really can’t understand until you go through it. I always thought how sad that must be, but I didn’t think about it much more than that. If you have a friend or family member with a baby in the nicu, just know it is a very, very hard time. August’s birth was as perfect as I could have imagined. I loved every minute of it! But going from that high to the low of not even being able to hold my baby was treacherous. But, it was temporary. And we got through it.
If you’re a nicu mama and you’re reading this, know that you are not alone and you WILL bring your baby home with you some day soon and every day spent in that chair next to your baby’s isolet will become a blur.