September is NICU Awareness Month, so I figured now would be a good time to share our NICU story.
On Sunday, I woke up and as any nesting mom to be would do, I started cleaning our apartment from top to bottom. Pregnancy had not slowed me down. Just week(s) prior I put together IKEA furniture in the nursery, unable to wait for my husband to get to it. I was 35 weeks and other than typical back pain I felt great and was having a perfect pregnancy. The cleaning may have been a little extreme and I started to feel some aching in my back unlike what I had been experiencing. I settled in to the couch for the remainder of the day.
I am an expert Googler and decided to search these mysterious pains. Turns out back labor is a thing. I downloaded an app to monitor the contractions and stayed home the next day from work to rest. Around 9 pm my husband arrived home from work, asking how I was, I assured him I was fine and he should get some rest. Maybe a half hour later I woke him and said I think we should head to the hospital. The pains were strong and I was unable to breathe during contractions.
We arrived at the hospital where they had me sit and answer questions before examining me. Why in the world they make a woman experiencing contractions sit for any length of time while answering questions through clenched teeth is beyond me. Finally, back in an examining room, now the middle of the night, the doctor discovered that I was 3 cm and our baby was in breech position. They started administering fluids and we waited.
Not too long after that it was decided that our feisty little girl was coming….at 35 weeks and 6 days. My husband and I just looked at each other. This was really happening. We weren’t ready. I had not packed a bag. My mom wasn’t scheduled to fly up from Florida yet. While birth plans are great, they certainly can’t be set in stone because anything can happen.
The nurses began prepping me for a C-section because of the baby’s position. Doctors and nurses came in and out of the room asking question after question all while I looked at my husband pleading with my eyes for him to answer them or make them go away. I was cold and in an unbelievable amount of pain.
The entire process was long yet quick and weird. While I was getting prepped my husband was out chatting with one of the doctors he apparently sold a mattress to. During delivery, I made sure to let my husband know that the car insurance was due that week. (I wasn’t prepared, remember?)
At 3:02 am our precious baby, Isabella Maria, was born. She was 5 lbs. 3.9 oz. and 18.5 inches. I remember them bringing her to me and falling instantly in love with this tiny little peanut. The rest was a blur. When I woke up in the recovery room I learned that my oxygen levels weren’t quite right from the anesthesia and had to be monitored closely. Our little girl was also sent off to the NICU.
If you have a C-section one of the best things you can do is get up as soon as possible. A pillow and postpartum belly binder were my best friends. The nurses were surprised at how soon I was up and about, but all I could think about was going to see my baby. When they placed her in my arms, hooked up to so many wires and a feeding tube, everything felt right. She belonged to me.
The road ahead was an emotional one. I stayed the maximum amount of time allowed so that I could be close to Isabella. Day after day we would travel the 25-30 minutes to the hospital when I woke in the morning. Come back home to rest and pump and then return in the late afternoon until after my husband got there after work, somewhere around 9-10 pm. Our little girl stayed in the NICU for almost 2.5 weeks struggling to gain weight and feed on her own. I struggled with knowing what to do, feeling helpless and alone. The nurses were amazing and so kind, but after a week of seeing them day after day and having them tell me she couldn’t come home and had no idea when this would happen I started to resent them. Surely they could give me a more concrete answer. Tell me when my baby could come home to the nursery I spent hours putting together. But they couldn’t. I left the hospital each night with tears streaming down my face as I rode down the elevator to my car. (oh yea, after a week of enduring my mom’s driving I took over…you’re not supposed to drive for 2 weeks post C-section.)
Thankfully on August 3rd we were told that our baby was coming home. She had been doing beautifully, feeding from a bottle (wouldn’t latch to me) and had been gaining weight steadily. We could not get out of there fast enough!
The takeaway from our NICU experience….
- Have a birth plan, but don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t go your way.
- During your last trimester, maybe lighten your load and start relaxing more.
- If someone you know has a baby in the NICU DO NOT continue to text and call asking when baby will be coming home. We don’t know until the day of and your incessant questions make our already hormonal selves cry more.
- If someone you know has a baby in the NICU, offer your help. We may be reluctant to take it, but offer gift cards for meals, travel friendly snacks for the endless trips to and from the hospital.
I would love to hear your birth stories and NICU experiences! Email me or comment below and thank you for reading! For more information on NICU Awareness month, please visit NICUAwareness.org.