My son spent the first 10 days of his life in the NICU. Not many people know this. We didn’t really publicize that he had been born, or explain to people what was going on right after he was born. I have gone back and forth about writing this blog post. As you know were not sharing much about Baby Boy online. And this is a very personal and emotional thing to go through. But after much debate, and talking with my husband, I decided to write this as healing for myself, and to hopefully help someone who might be in a similar situation. It’s very easy to feel isolated, especially when you keep going back to the hospital and seeing happy new families leaving together. I realize 10 days isn’t all that long, but while going through it, it seemed like an eternity. No one wants their baby to end up in the NICU. And I think there’s this thought that if you make it to the 37 week mark and you’ve had a relatively healthy pregnancy, that baby is fine. That’s what I thought. I remember doing a happy dance the day I hit 37 weeks, because we were past the “trouble”. But things can always go awry.
Baby Boy had meconium staining and had aspirated it. They think he was sitting in meconium for quite some time before he was born. He was having labored breathing, so him (and his father) were whisked away from me within 5 minutes after his birth. He had blood tests and cultures, xrays, and was put on antibiotics within an hour after birth. They told us he would be on antibiotics for 48 hours to 7 days. I didn’t get to see him, besides the quick initial introduction, for 6 hours and wasn’t able to finally hold him until late the next day. Hubs didn’t get to hold him until 3 days after he was born. He had to be on oxygen and IVs. It’s so hard to see your little baby with all of these cords and beeping monitors and be told that you can’t even hold him. Those first 10 days were incredibly hard and trying. I thank the Lord that my husband was there to go through it with me, I really wouldn’t have made it without him.
The hardest part of the whole 10 days was probably leaving the hospital initially. I think everyone dreams about leaving the hospital carrying their newest addition in the carseat. Mom gets in the back of the car and dad drives them home. We left the hospital on the second day, just my husband and me, empty car seat in the back of the car. Both of us teary eyed because this wasn’t the way it was supposed to happen. We could have boarded in at the hospital, but we decided against it. There were lots of reasons we didn’t think it would be good for us. We didn’t want to leave Sydney at home alone, the hospital beds are not ideal for rest, and we would have had to eat out every meal. We only live about 10 minutes from the hospital and we figured it would be best for our mental health to stay at home. So we made at minimum 3 trips back and forth to the hospital daily, for feedings and to hang out with our little man.
Every time we’d go in to see him, we’d have to scrub with these individually wrapped scrub brushes provided by the hospital and clean under our nails. We have never had cleaner hands or nails. After the 10th time of scrubbing, we finally got the hang of how to lather it properly and get enough soap on the sponge.
Then we’d get to go in and see him. If he was asleep, we’d just have to sit next to his bed and watch him. It is so hard to sit in a room and listen to all the monitors. There were 7 other babies in the room, and every time a machine would ding my heart would race and my head would shoot up to the monitor. If it wasn’t his monitor, I’d breathe a sigh of relief, if it was than I would look at him to make sure everything was alright. I thought I wanted one of those monitors in his room that would alert me if it thought something was wrong, but after spending time in the NICU, that’s the last thing I want. The hospital machines mess up or can’t make the reading while he’s kicking about. So you get a lot of false alarms. Which is terrifying as a parent who doesn’t know any better and is staring at these numbers trying to make sense of it all.
His nurses and doctors were amazing though. They were very knowledgeable and tried to help us understand anything that we didn’t. But we still felt helpless and there were many times where we felt he didn’t need to be in the NICU. They had initially told us he would be in the NICU for a max of 7 days on antibiotics, but they ended up having to do a 10 day course. Even though there were things we didn’t agree with and things I wish that would have been explained to us earlier, I am so thankful for all of his nurses. They really did care for him and I think had his best interest at heart. It’s hard when the nurses change everyday and you see a new doctor everyday (they have 3 in the NICU). It’s easy to feel like he’s not making progress, or that certain nurses aren’t as caring as others. Especially, when his IV kept needing to be changed. It starts to feel like they are hurting him on purpose, which of course is absurd. It’s hard to put your trust in someone that you don’t know. We took great care in choosing the OB for delivery and the pediatrician who would be in charge of his care once he was born. But now these people you have no prior connection to are taking care of your son 24 hours a day without your permission, basically. The only thing we had to consent to the whole time, was the Hep B vaccine. Besides that, they basically did whatever they felt was best. And that’s a super hard thing to swallow and accept.
But even though there were many lows while he was in the NICU, there were probably just as many highs. The first time I got to hold him, the first time I got to see my husband hold him, the first time he peed on my husband, and watching my husband change his diapers. Watching my family get to see him for the first time outside of the incubator, and just having their support in general. Bugs smiles almost constantly while he is sleeping. It’s so fun to watch him while he sleeps and see his little kissy faces and smiles. The day he was finally taken off oxygen, day 7, and getting him out of the incubator and into a bassinet! Hubs and I both did a happy dance on the way out to the car. Day 9, when we got to give him his first sponge bath in the hospital and he cried the entire time. And of course day 10, when we got to take him home. There were so many emotions on that day. We were elated and nervous and anxious. We finally got to walk out of the hospital with him in his carseat. Hubs put him in the back of the car and I got into the backseat. Hubs drove us home and bugs squinted as the sun hit his little face. I think I enjoy moments like that more now. He didn’t see the sun for 10 days, or outside! That’s mind blowing to me. Hubs and I shed happy tears on the way home, thankful that he was finally ours.