The beautiful sound of the first cry of your baby is what moms imagine and dream of. Most moms don’t imagine a NICU stay for their baby. Having your baby whisked away to be cared for by the medical team is not what anyone wants. But this was the reality of both my deliveries.
The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) became our second home as they gave our babies the extra attention that they needed. Without this amazing unit, I would have been inconsolable. I couldn’t help but wonder what I did to cause my babies to be born early or need this extra attention and love. The anxiety and depression immediately set in when my water broke. First at 37 weeks with my son Will and then at 34 weeks with my daughter Evie Grace.
I took the classes for new parents. I felt completely prepared with my perfect birth plan. Then the reality came and I knew it wouldn’t be followed.
The birth of my son was traumatic for both of us as a result of an emergency cesarean after 16 hours of labor. I woke up with my dad in my recovery room and no baby or husband. I knew something was wrong when my dad said Will was in the NICU.
When I went to see Will I was not prepared for all the wires and tubes. For not being able to hold him. I worried I caused him to be there by not being able to carry him for 9 months. The nursing staff were wonderful and immediately reassured me I did nothing wrong. Will was getting the care he needed. The nurses spent extra time with me when I had questions or my doubts were creeping in. I could not have managed as well as I did without those amazing women.
With our second NICU stay, I was more prepared mentally for what to expect with a baby in the NICU. But it took a dramatic toll on me emotionally and physically.
I stayed in the NICU and never left Evie Grace for the first 5 days. I worried that if I left something would happen and wouldn’t be there to help her. Emotionally, I was breaking down about every hour the first week. In addition, there were the ups and downs of watching her monitors, hearing the alarms constantly going off, and medical staff coming in and out. This meant I wasn’t sleeping or taking care of my entire being.
Most importantly, as a mom you must have someone to take care of you.
I was lucky to have a support system that included nurses checking on me and social workers who came each day to check-in and tell me what services were available for me and the baby. I delivered in Des Moines and my home is in Ames so my husband was at home taking care of our other children and I was with Evie.
Many families have had a baby graduate from the NICU. Those families blessed us while we were there. They delivered meals, snacks, a journal, and a blanket during our time in the NICU. As we graduated and took Evie Grace home I felt prepared for what to expect at home. Thanks to the nursing staff and doctors I knew how to care for her and what signs to watch for as she continued her healing at home. They gave me the confidence I needed to care for my preemie.
March for Babies
Without our journey in the NICU we would not be connected to March for Babies through March of Dimes. The work they do to provide services and opportunities for moms and babies is indescribable. They help Moms who need support throughout their pregnancy as well as babies who are born earlier than expected. Above all, they are leading research to help find and eradicate the top health threats for moms and babies. Our family was blessed with insurance and prenatal care but not all families are. This organization steps in and helps when there are gaps.
Through this organization, we formed Evie’s Army and we will virtually walk in her honor this year. Though financial help is always needed, advocacy for the health of moms and babies is the mission of the organization. We as a family celebrate the miracle of both of our NICU graduates each year through this organization. As we approach Evie Grace’s 1st birthday on May 31st, I reflect on the journey the NICU has taken us on. I am forever grateful for everyone we have met on our path and will always support organizations that empower moms and babies.