10 things I got from the NICU

My second child was a preemie. I like to share my thoughts and feelings about this experience to help other who may be going through the same thing.

1.Schedules are cool. I never thought I would get a positive experience from having a NICU baby, but when she came home, she was on a schedule for feeding and sleeping and it made life a lot easier

2.The nurses there know their SH*T. These people tend to the smallest of small, the weakest of weak and they take care of them like you would not believe. When you first see the little babies, with the wires and tubes and machines, some the size of your palm, you wonder who can do that. Who could care for someone so small, but still fight for them. NICU nurses, that’s who.

3.Preemie clothes. When you are shopping for your baby, you see 0-3 and all the other sizes. Sometimes you might see a P or preemie and you think, oh wow, I can’t imagine such a tiny baby, and you go on your way and buy the regular sizes. The NICU nurses taught me that those Preemie clothes are for some babies- my baby, and whenever I see any preemie clothes now, I think back to our journey and I saw a silent prayer for the baby who might wear it and the staff who cares for them.

4.Lots of stuff looks scary to us, but the babies might not mind. My child had a feeding tube. Up in her nose and it freaked me out. I kept thinking of how it must drive her crazy, but low and behold one day, when we were holding her, she made a little smile, tube and all. Now I know little babies can’t smile, so it was probably gas, but to me it was amazing. I have that picture several places in our home and it reminds me of our journey.

5.You don’t have to pump, you can use formula and a kind nurse will not judge you. To each his own, and I do know how amazing breast milk is for the baby, but when I gave birth I was really sick. I was being pumped full of meds and I had not held my baby and the last thing I was thinking about was breast milk. There were moms in the NICU pumping like crazy, but since we didn’t have a choice and she was started on formula, no one ever questioned me or made me feel stupid about my choice.

6.They know you are in pain when you can’t hold your baby and at the time, they might seem mean and the enemy, but they know what’s best. When I first met my girl, I couldn’t hold her, but I stuck my hand in the incubator and tried to stroke her little arm, the nurse kindly told me she couldn’t handle even that small touch. It broke me, I am not going to lie. No kangaroo care, no holding, no meeting her when she was born, and now no touching. But they have their reasons, it’s just hard to manage your feelings when it’s your baby.

7. Babies make it into the NICU for a number of reasons. Some are born too early, some are sick, some are both. Most times it’s a shock for the parents. Our case was mild, she was just born too soon, with some minor breathing issues. So instead of giving me literature that would scare me, that was meant for more serious cases, our nurses advised me to not read any books, or go on websites, because it would most likely make me more concerned than I needed to be.

8. NICU nurses can talk to you on a level that the doctors sometimes can not. They can also make you get your act together. I think by the time I was well enough to make it to the NICU, I was frustrated- because I hadn’t met my baby, I couldn’t hold her, I thought she was not going to make it. I was scared, I was dwelling in self pity and I was angry at the world. Well the NICU nurse certainly put me in my place, told me to be strong for my baby. My husband was bearing more weight than me because I was scared and I was shutting down, but the nurses made me see things in perspective and to stop feeling sorry for myself.

9. Morning emails. Each morning I got an email written as though from my daughter giving me her stats from over night. It was such a cool way to stay connected. We were 50 miles away one way and that made my morning.

10. When it’s time to go home, they are happy for you. But they take pride in the work they did and we get an invite to come back each year for a party for NICU graduates. It’s crazy to think my little baby has come so far and is now a pre-schooler. Those early days in the NICU, really freaked me out, made me scared, made me think, made me cry, made me worry about the future. But NICU nurses and doctors are amazing and parents couldn’t handle it own their own without prayers and NICU staff.

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