I didn’t have a child placed in my arms after they were born. I didn’t hear the first cries. I didn’t see my children for four hours after my emergency c-section. I didn’t get to hold my babies until they were a month old. I didn’t have a normal introduction into parenting. I am a NICU Mom and you just don’t get it.
I wake up to a silent house, pump milk and put it into sterile hospital bottles, add a barcoded label with the time and date, and set it aside for my trip to see my babies. I get ready for the day and try to leave the house with enough time to make rounds at the hospital. I check in with the front desk ladies that have come to recognize me by my hair (they always compliment the red 🙂 ) and let me blow past the line to head to the NICU.
Up to the second floor, phone call into the NICU and give my ID numbers to be buzzed past the security doors. I scrub for 3 minutes- no rings, bracelets, hair ties, anything allowed on the hands. I wipe down my phone with a sterile cleaning solution and head through another set of doors into the NICU.
I smile and say hello to the nurses I’ve gotten close with over the past few months and walk over to my babies. They are either held by a nurse, in a crib/mommaroo, or being fed. I ask for the update and wait with a halted breath to hear about a scary episode that might’ve occurred since my last phone call or visit. “Cameron had an episode last night where his heart rate went into the 60s and his spO2 went into the 20s. It took some stimulation to get him back. The episode was about 90 seconds.” I process the information, sigh, because I can’t do anything about it, and then scoop up my baby to give some comfort and help my own anxiety melt away.
The day is filled with normal mom duties- changing diapers, feeding, snuggle time, pumping and trying to strategically plan when I can use the restroom. Sometimes, things are uneventful, other times I have to witness my child turn blue and I have to figure out how to make them breathe again. After about 6 hours, I have to leave my children with someone else and I head home. I arrive at our house, fill in Brian on the day with the babies, look at pictures and snuggle Bell. If I can make it to the gym I will, otherwise Brian and I just talk about how much we can’t wait for the babies to be home.
I’ve done this routine for 100 days.
This journey has gotten better as time has gone on. The first two months were full of new information, lab results, complications, transfers to U of M Children’s hospital and back, medical scares, small triumphs, and lots of stress. I can’t express to you the level of anxiety that I felt during October and November. I guess I don’t show it well on the outside, because people kept telling me how strong I was, but I had never felt weaker. When my phone went off for a simple text message my heart was racing because I thought it was a message from the hospital. You have to understand, Brian and I got the worst phone call possible with Isla, so from there on out every ding and notification we feared the worst.
It was stressful to be asked how things were going because where did you want us to start? Did you really want me to tell you that I was having nightmares of alarms going off in my head? Or that I would start to replay the day that Isla passed away and just cry myself to sleep? When you asked how I was doing did you really expect me to open up about everything and tell you how I was scared to get emotionally close to my children because I feared they wouldn’t make it? Did you want to know how Quinn’s blood gas was good yesterday, but is bad today and how they are trying to get her off the vent but it’s not working, so now they’re going to give her steroids but steroids have long term negative effects on mental development? Were you aware that when you told me I was so strong I was actually crying non-stop because after I got my reports on Cameron and Quinn I could only think about how there should be a third report on Isla?
It’s not your fault that simple questions evoked such strong emotions. We knew everything was coming from a place of concern, love and support, but that’s what went through my head. I appreciate you checking on me, Brian, and the babies. I felt so much love and support but it was hard to lean on it.
I’m not sure what I’m trying to accomplish with this post. A thank you for the support? An excuse for any curt behavior in the past few months? To shed light on what my life has been like for the past few months? To just type it out and let those emotions go? I don’t know. Regardless of the intention of this post I can tell you this, I cannot wait to be a normal mom and no longer a NICU mom.