September is NICU Awareness Month
Our doctors have no idea why my water broke at 26 weeks. I was admitted to the hospital and placed under observation because all signs indicated I was about to give birth. But my body apparently wasn’t ready to give in. After 24 hours, we were given a tour of the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) and I was placed on bedrest in the hospital’s antepartum unit.
Over the next two weeks, we kept a positive attitude, made friends with nurses and rejoiced with each milestone. On the first day of our 28th week, we had a special bagel breakfast with our nurses to celebrate the baby’s lungs being fully formed. But just 4 days later, I started having contractions.
Matt was born the next morning. He had pneumonia and had to be intubated immediately. A nurse quickly took a picture of us with him and then whisked him off to the NICU which would be his home for the next 82 days.
They say life in the NICU is a rollercoaster. It perfectly describes the intense swing of up and down, bad and good, happy and terrifying. As perfect as a morning visit can be, when you come back in the afternoon, bad news can plummet you into worry and despair. The lack of control is stressful in what, for most, is supposed to be a happy time. New studies even show that NICU parents have an increased rate of divorce and struggle with PTSD.
It was a tough row to hoe but finally, in the beginning of September, we were able to bring our boy home!
Trying to Find Normal
Matt came home on oxygen and a heart monitor which precluded us from taking him on many outings. And his overall health required us to significantly limit social interactions. But we were finally home together as a family!
One of the first things I did was buy a baby book on Amazon. Standard purchase. Nothing too fancy.
The day it came, I sat down at the table, computer ready to print photos and craft pens prepared to illustrate and document. I opened the book, turned the pages and started to cry.
“Mommy’s Baby Shower” – I didn’t have one. My water broke the day before my work party was scheduled. And my family hadn’t planned one yet.
“Waiting for Your Arrival” – When my labor actually started, the nurses tending to my bedrest couldn’t pick up my contractions. Matt was born only 20 minutes after I was whisked into a delivery room. We didn’t have time to call anyone to say the baby was on the way. So our waiting room was empty.
“Baby’s First Bath” – We watched a nurse give him his first bath. And his second. And his third.
Reading this book through tears, I realized that no baby book would work for me. I didn’t get to have any of these experiences.
More importantly, a traditional baby book didn’t focus on the big accomplishments and moments we did have!
The first time I got to hold him – when he was one week old.
When he graduated from a C-PAP machine to regular oxygen.
The first time, at 8 weeks old, that he got to try a bottle instead of being tube fed.
When he finally weighed 5 pounds.
These were milestones that deserved to be in a baby book. But there wasn’t space for these accomplishments in the one I bought.
I packed it up and donated it to a local shelter for teen moms. And decided to keep my eyes out for a baby book worthy of our NICU experience.
I finally found it last fall – when Matt was eight years old! My Preemie Baby Book!
The Perfect NICU Baby Book
This darling book was created especially for the NICU journey by former NICU parents! These folks had been where we were.
With pages for each and every day in the NICU, no moment, good or bad, would be forgotten. Despite the time delay, I purchased it immediately and set to work.
I had kept good records of our NICU days. Lists of feedings, weights, appointments. Pictures, documents, a calendar. I had it all. And this book was ready for it!
As I filled the pages of this precious book, stories came rushing back. Some good, some bad and still some that were once worrisome that time has tempered and reshaped to pleasant memories.
It was cathartic! Reliving the most stressful time in our marriage and remembering our newborn work and struggle to come home with us opened up the flood gate of tears yet again.
But when I finished, I was so happy. And I have the folks at One Eleven Lovey Lane to thank.
For those parents of NICU graduate amongst our readers, I would highly recommend this book. It would also make an outstanding gift for current NICU parents. It makes a wonderful document of the journey but also a quiet way to process the experience.
I plan to take our preemie baby book out this month and share it with Matt. With his autism, I don’t fancy his interest will last long but it’s worth a shot. I know it will make us smile.