What I Wish I’d Known About the NICU

In my short 31 years, I’ve been through some pretty tough things. Nothing compares to the few days I spent in the NICU with my 4th baby. I know my experience was nothing compared to many others’ NICU experiences, but it was still pretty traumatic. I wish I’d known more of what to expect from the experience.

It Can Happen to You

According to this article, 10-15% of babies end up in the NICU, and many of them are not premature! This was the case for me. I should have realized that statistically, one of my 5 babies would probably need a NICU stay. Since they were all born at 40 weeks or later, I assumed it would never happen to me.

I had my 4th baby at 40 weeks and 4 days after an excruciating delivery. The doctor warned me that my son would probably need a little help once he was born, but I didn’t know what that meant. My baby had been in distress for a few hours, so once he was finally born, he wasn’t as responsive as the doctors would’ve liked. I felt so terrible right after delivery that I barely noticed them whisking him away. I signed a consent form for something, but all I could really think about was getting some sleep.

It Feels Like Prison

The next morning, I felt a bit better and actually wanted to hold my baby. At this point, I still didn’t realize he was technically in the NICU. Our small hospital had just one nursery at the time with no separate room for the NICU babies. I did realize it when I went to the nursery and saw him in the warmer with tubes coming from him. The nurses told me he’d had another tube (I can’t remember what) that he didn’t end up needing, so he was only on oxygen at this point. They assured me that he’d be home in no time, and the doctor told me we’d go home Saturday night, maybe Sunday. (It was Friday morning.)

We didn’t go home Saturday.

We also didn’t go home Sunday.

I tried going to my house to see the other kids since I’d been discharged on Saturday, but I couldn’t stay. It was too sad to be there without my little guy.

It was so frustrating to be told that we’d probably go home at a certain point and then have that time change again for what seemed to be silly reasons. At first, the nurses told me that he’d have to maintain oxygen levels on his own. Then, he needed to stay warm and gain some weight. I’d just had a baby, remember, so this was all so much worse than it seems now.

NICU

The Emotions Hit Hard

I tried keeping him in my room for a few hours, but the oxygen monitor kept beeping at me and really stressing me out. I had to take him back to the NICU so I wouldn’t have to listen to it.

Sunday night, I cried for 3 hours straight. I felt that we’d never get to leave. I was tired, sore, and bored out of my mind. The only thing I could really do was cry or try to watch TV. I couldn’t even eat chocolate, and if you know me, that’s pretty serious!

Finally, I got word on Monday morning that we’d get to leave. I’d say the rest is history, but that little guy has given me a run for my money since then! However, he has been healthy.

The Trauma Lasts For a While

At my 6 week checkup, the doctor read over my report and asked me if I’d experienced any PTSD from the birth. I told him no because that’s what I really believed at the time. I didn’t dwell on the experience too much. Once, a comedy show we were watching had a NICU baby in it, and I cried through it, but I didn’t think much of it.

I originally thought I’d wait a while before having one more baby, but God had other plans for our family. During the first trimester, I realized how deep the pain was from the NICU experience. I had nightmares almost every night for many weeks and never felt happy during the first trimester. I prayed and worried for months about how the birth would turn out since it hadn’t gone well the last time. Finally, after 40 weeks and 3 days, I had a healthy baby girl. Though she didn’t breathe on her own at first, she went home with me after a normal hospital stay. Only at that point, when I knew I’d never have another baby, did I get over the NICU experience.

You’ll Blame Yourself

I felt like a bad mom when my baby was in the NICU. Though I hadn’t done anything wrong, I still felt responsible. I look at that little boy now and see no lasting effects from that rocky start. He doesn’t remember it, either!

Pregnancy, childbirth, and babies are inherently unpredictable. I have always relied on sound medical advice and my own inspiration on what to do for my babies, and I’ve never regretted it. I remind myself of that when I look back and wonder if things could have gone more smoothly if I’d done things differently. There is no point in dwelling on it because I can’t change the past, and I’m confident in my choices even if the outcomes weren’t always easy.

The NICU is hard no matter how long you’re there. I spent lots of time talking to the angel nurses so I wouldn’t feel so lonely. I also got a lot more rest than I would have at home, which was a blessing after a rough delivery. If you every have a baby in the NICU, know that you are not alone. One day, the experience will just be another memory that helped you grow.

4 thoughts on “What I Wish I’d Known About the NICU”

  1. Thank you Sacha for opening up about this. Victoria didn’t need the NICU but I didn’t consider giving birth anywhere besides the hospital “just in case” she would unexpectedly need it. Now that I’m pregnant again, I’m super grateful to not have PTSD from my previous experiences but I also feel relief from your post knowing a bit more about the NICU. I pray we won’t need it but thanks to you I’ve got one less terrifying unknown to ponder.

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