BY SARAH BOUVIER
Our son Henry was born at 35 weeks. There were no prior indications or health reasons that led to him being born early… he was just ready to enter the world! The NICU team was in the room as I was giving birth and then post-birth we were informed that Henry was doing well and the NICU team would return in two hours and take him for a minimum of 48 hours for monitoring. Within 20 minutes Henry was having trouble breathing and the NICU team came rushing in. Henry was on a CPAP machine for 6 days and then had a few days where he needed oxygen. He had feeding tubes and while at the NICU could never latch for feeding. He was in the NICU a total of 23 days, every day being told Henry is going to be fine, he is just maturing. Henry failed the car seat test and was sent home in a car bed. We were at the BWH NICU and had a great team of nurses and doctors.
What I wish I had known prior to our NICU experience
While I know there is no exact timeline, I wish we would have known from the beginning that being a white male born at 35 weeks with issues breathing he would need to mature until around week 39 to pass all the milestones for discharge. While the RNs and doctors tell you they have started the clock recording for 5 days of good respiratory numbers, more often than not there is a relapse and that first 5 day marker is not very realistic. To be fair, it is not that our nurse did not rely this message, but like any new mom, I hung on to the hope that my child wouldn’t relapse. He relapsed twice and the second time was heartbreaking.
Advice for parents experiencing the NICU
It doesn’t seem like it now, but this is such a small part of the whole experience. We have been home for 6 months now and I look back at photos from the NICU where we spent over 3 weeks every day, it seems like a lifetime ago. The ups and downs of the NICU take such a toll on you as a new parent, even if your child is only maturing. Its your baby and he/she should be at home with you! Try and make the best of it… hold them every chance you get (skin to skin really helped my husband and I connect with Henry), bring in clothes and stuffed animals from home and take lots of pictures so when you get home you can look at the photos from the day and know you are one day closer to normalcy. Take advantage of the resources offered to you! There were numerous social workers, at BWH discounted parking, home aide visits after discharge, early intervention review, etc. Its ok to be emotional and at times upset with the process. even if your baby needs more time to mature.
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