Written by Kristina Araque
Please tell us a little about your NICU/Special care story?
On a Thursday morning in September at 33 weeks & 2 days my water broke. No warning, no known reason, but this baby girl was telling me she wanted out. Fear, panic, “it’s too early!”
Just under 24 hours later out she came. Our baby girl, Summer, born on the first day of fall. Those first moments of pure love, more emotion than I’ve ever felt. What followed from there was 8 whole weeks in the Special Care Unit. She was 3lbs 12oz, under the 10th percentile for her gestational age. She was under the blue light, had an IV, feeding tube, cpap, monitors connected everywhere & inside one of those incubators. Let me tell you, I’m pretty sure I disassociated. I cry looking back at those early photos. No one imagines their baby this fragile, this vulnerable. But little by little, week by week, she grew & each of those began to disappear. And little by little we got to know her, her cries, her patterns, her temperament, her cuddles. It was hard & then got easier (thanks to our incredible nurses) & then NICU fatigue would strike again. Cycles of hope, positivity, disappointment, mourning, love.
I share this story as she hits 4 months old, 2+ months out of special care, and she is perfect. We did not miss out on the newborn phase (we all had our adjusting to do there). She’s chunky, making noises, knows exactly who mom & dad are, and giving big smiles. I thought those days would never end but here we are so far away.
Is there anything you wish you had known prior to your NICU experience?
There are a few things I wish I knew about having a baby in the NICU.
1. There are way more NICU families out there than you think. I bet you have lots of friends & children in your life who were in there & you had no idea. They will come out of the woodwork. Find comfort in those people.
2. It is ok to mourn. You will lose out on a lot of ‘normal’ experiences that you had envisioned. There will be no joyous visitors rushing in to meet the baby. Maybe you missed your baby shower or you couldn’t hold your baby when they came out. You’ll have to drive to see your new love instead of looking into your bassinet for a little while. Maybe you will feel empty inside, craving the kicks & movement of where they should still be growing. Maybe you won’t want to share photos because you don’t want people to only see the wires & monitors instead of the love of your life. I needed to let myself mourn all of it. It is ok to feel a lot of things at once.
Do you have any advice for parents experiencing the NICU?
My advice to my fellow NICU families is to lean into trust & do lots of self care. It’s easier said than done, I know. But use it as a mantra. Trust those doctors, nurses, surgeons, and specialists and trust that they are giving your baby the absolute best treatment and care (they are actual angels). Trust the process. I know how badly you want your little one home asap and every day is a cycle of hope, disappointment & digging deep to stay positive. That day will come when your sweet baby is ready & very quickly the NICU will feel far away (I thought this was crap when I was in the thick of it, but now I swear it’s true). Trust yourself. You got this. You are giving your baby exactly what they need even though it doesn’t feel that way. & no matter how much time you spend there each day you are doing your best & it is enough. Give yourself lots of grace & treat yourself wherever you can.