September is Neonatal Intensive Care awareness month and I wanted to share my experience and story to help other mothers and fathers that may have or had a little one in the NICU.
I went in for a routine ultrasound to be told we needed to deliver my twins because Olivia was not getting enough nutrients from the placenta she was sharing with her twin brother, Grady. Basically, Grady was taking most of the nutrients. My twins were born at 37 weeks and 2 days. The nurses placed my babies on my chest, Grady, my son weighed 4lbs 12oz and Olivia weighed 3lbs 11 oz. Within minutes the nurse told my husband and I that Olivia needed to be sent to the NICU due to her weight and help regulate her body temperature. I was taken to my hospital room holding Grady and praying for my sweet Olivia. I was told at 2am that I could finally go see Olivia, 9 hours after she was born. There she was in her incubator, surrounded by wires and cords. She was so beautiful but so fragile. I remember being scared to take her out of her safety bubble (her incubator). I had such overwhelming feelings.
Olivia stayed in the NICU what seem to be 21 very long days. Her brother and I were discharged 4 days after they were born. I remember leaving the hospital and felt horrible that I was leaving her behind. I struggled with this, I felt guilty.
The next 21 days were a blur. I was home with my newborn son, up all night, feeding, and changing. I would get up the next day, get my son ready and head to the hospital to be with my baby girl. I felt like I could not give my all to each of my babies, if I was in the NICU I felt I needed to hold Olivia as much as possible. I either had someone holding Grady or he was in a hospital crib. The constant dings and episodes of having a “brady” had me calling for a nurse. I constantly felt panicked that I wasn’t holding her right, I wasn’t holding her enough, or that she was cold or would get sick.
Every night my husband and I would call at 12:30am, when we knew she was being weighed, praying that she would gain and not lose or for her nurse to tell us that she took her entire bottle. Each milestone that was met was a huge accomplishment. It was the most difficult and overwhelming experience in my life. But I was fortunate enough to have very loving and supportive family and friends. If I was unable to be with Olivia, I knew my family members were there to rock and pray over her. The nurse’s and doctors at Betty H Cameron Women’s and Children at Hospital were amazing. They made sure I knew everything that was going on and made sure my husband and I were also taking care of ourselves.
As a Maternal Mental Health therapist, I know how common it can be to develop postpartum depression and anxiety. Having a baby in the NICU can have a huge emotional and mental impact. As a therapist and a NICU mother, I know this was not what you planned or ever imagined your birth story would be for your little miracle(s). Know that you are doing the best you can, take care of yourself. Ask the doctor, nurses, social workers and your NICU team questions. Take it day by day. Lean on your support system, ask for help and know your little miracle is in great hands.
Our NICU babies are true survivors, and so are you! Continue to sing and pray over your little ones.