My NICU story. I'll be journaling my NICU journey on the blog for the next little while. Leaving the hospital without your baby is not something you get used to, you just learn to cope. Up on my previous blog, is the story of her arrival at 32 weeks. Today is the story of the start of her 31 day stay. Join me ❤.
When I walked into the NICU for the first time, I tried to hold my head high while attempting the "confident" look (in my hospital gown that has that tie at the back and you're never quite sure if you're flashing your bum). Nevertheless, I tried to look confident. I walked in with the attitude of "I've got this" and tried to maintain my composure. I couldn't let them see me waiver or let them see my emotions. I needed them to know I was strong enough to care for my baby - I suppose, looking back, I thought I needed to prove myself.
Seeing her in her incubator, with tubes and wires and beeping machines, was not normal. This wasn't my normal and I felt like I didn't know that baby in there. Here was this little baby in the incubator, my baby, and yet I had no idea what to do. I looked at her and had to remind myself that she grew inside me and I birthed her - she was mine, she was ours. But how come I didn't know what the hell to do? I was staring at her when a nurse came over and asked me if I wanted to change her diaper. I smiled and said a polite "no". I was scared of the nurse watching me - I didn't want her to see me fumble. How do you change that diaper without knotting those wires around those tiny legs? Surely I would set off some alarms and break something. So I watched her change my baby's diaper while hot tears fell from my eyes. But I watched the nurse carefully, I watched how she intertwined the three wires into the diaper flaps, and how she maneuvered my tiny baby.
They explained things to me like how she's receiving daily caffeine to help her heart, food/nutrition called TPN (total parental nutrition), and that soon she'll be able to start taking EBM (expressed breast milk) from a nasogastric tube (a tube that runs from her nose to her tummy). I remember thinking, "you're giving my baby caffeine?", "you're putting a tube in her nose?", "you put a needle in her arm?" "you put tape on her face?", "you poked her and took her blood this morning?" I realized that not only did I not know how to change my baby's diaper, I also had to realize that we were not the decision-makers in her life at this time. It was a hard pill to swallow. Letting go of control. And I never really had it in the first place.
It was time for me to hold her and the nurse suggested I go change my hospital gown around so that it opens in the front - then we could get some real good skin-to-skin cuddles. I went to the washroom and while I flipped my gown around, I started to ball. I couldn't contain my emotions. The floodgates opened and I was a hot mess. Sobbing to the point where I couldn't talk, but suddenly for some reason or other, I just didn't care who saw my emotions. I let it all go and walked back into the NICU and sat in my chair. The nurses were a bit indifferent, but kind - they brought over a couple boxes of tissues - they see us postpartum Moms all the time, they know it's normal. But my poor husband. He had never seen me like this and he has a hard time when he can't fix something that's upsetting me. But, you know, he just sat there quietly beside me. I felt him there with me, taking care of me in a quiet way. He quietly took pictures. He took pictures of me and my baby and gave me the gift of seeing those moments. He was my quiet strength. He never told me to stop crying, he just sat with me and let me cry. Bless him.
I held my sweet Daisy for a very long time (and yes, I cried the whole time). I was able to tell myself that no-one else can give her what I am giving her right now. All the medical decisions did not give her her Mommy's smell, warmth and love. Only I could do that. And so I did. I lived in the NICU for 31 days.
For my Momma's with preemies in the NICU - you have all my love. Let the medicals do their medical thing, and you do yours - give that sweet little baby all your strength, and remember, no one else but you, can give your baby, your Momma's love.
The Original Breastfeeding Sleep Shirt