Our NICU story started on the morning of Tuesday, Sept 1 at a routine ultrasound – I was 34 weeks and 5 days. They told me the baby was measuring small and it looked like my placenta was that of a 39/40 weeker so the baby wasn’t getting all the nutrients it needed to grow. But they didn’t sound that concerned! They said the goal would be to get me to 37 weeks, and I left with appointments set up twice a week for the next two weeks. I then went upstairs to my OB office for a checkup booked on the same day and relayed the information from MFM. Once they took my blood pressure and urine, they said it was time to go back downstairs because I was showing signs of preeclampsia. Because of COVID, my husband couldn’t be in the hospital with me and we really thought I’d be sent home eventually so he waited in the car. They hooked me up to a blood pressure monitor and monitored my readings over the next hour or so. Once my BP didn’t stabilize, they decided to run more tests, which is when we decided my husband should come into the hospital. First, he ran home to walk our dog and pack a hospital bag since we had nothing with us! I even had him bring my pregnancy pillow in case I got admitted on bedrest for a while. Eventually my tests revealed severe preeclampsia and because of how small the baby looked (diagnosed as intrauterine growth restriction – IUGR) they decided it was best for both of us to induce.We met the NICU team immediately and were informed that our baby would immediately go to the NICU and likely need to remain there for a while. It was all surreal – wild to realize we would meet our baby so soon and scary not knowing if he/she would be ok. They started me on misoprostol to induce labor and gave me a steroid shot to help the baby’s lungs mature before delivery. I was hooked up to a magnesium drip to treat preeclampsia and prevent seizures (solidarity to anyone who has been on “the mag”). Everyone kept saying things might progress quickly but not so much…almost 48 hours after we arrived at the hospital, many doses of misoprostol, Pitocin and 4 hours of pushing later, our son Isaac arrived on Thursday, September 3 at exactly 35 weeks. He was 3 pounds and 14 ounces. Thankfully he came out screaming and it was a relief and joy to hear his first cries. They were able to wrap him up and place him on me for a minute before taking him to the NICU. My husband was able to follow him to the NICU while I remained in delivery. Because of the magnesium drip, which I had to remain on for 24 hours after delivery, I was unable to leave my bed. My husband visited Isaac while I was in recovery, and the following afternoon, 36 hours after delivery, I was able to go up to the NICU and hold Isaac for the first time. Isaac was a small but mighty champ from the beginning. From all standpoints he was healthy and just needed to gain weight in order to go home (minimum discharge weight from the NICU is 4 pounds). He needed antibiotics early on and some tube assistance but I don’t even remember the details since we were so focused on his weight, coming in every morning and calling every night to see how much food he was taking in and how he was gaining. Just 11 days later, which felt so long and short at the same time, we took our little peanut home.
While the NICU team tried to prepare us for what was to come, it’s really impossible to know until the baby is born and monitored for a day or two. We were prepared for a possible 4+ week stay in the NICU and it turned out Isaac would be there less than 2. We were so lucky that aside from weight he had no other health issues that required monitoring. On the flip side, other parents may have the opposite experience and find their baby not coming home for longer than they anticipated.I also wish I had been better prepared to not be able to see Isaac for 36 hours after delivery, which is very specific to our circumstances and the magnesium drip. It’s been difficult to look back on that time and have missed out on those early moments and hours after delivery.
Ignore the monitors, wires, and beeps are much as you can. It is so easy to get caught up and focus on every number change, but the team of nurses and doctors is watching too and knows what to do and when to be concerned. Diaper changes will be so much easier once you’re home!Even in the NICU, there is no manual on how to do things. At times it felt like every nurse or doctor would tell us something slightly different or show us a new technique for how to hold him or feed him. All we wanted to do was what was “right” or “best” but just like with any parent, everyone has their own ideas and we had to tune into what felt right to us.Strike up convo with your NICU neighbors – because of COVID, we all kept our distance but the few conversations we had with other NICU parents were really comforting. Despite our very different circumstances and babies, we could all share in and take comfort in this shared experience.
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June 3, 2021