Our time in the NICU was relatively short compared to some, although maybe considered long to others. It's all relative to each families personal experience. I said "our time in the nicu" because when you have a child (or two) in the nicu, you are in the nicu too. It's an experience only understood by those who have been there, who have walked the halls, washed their hands and arms up to their elbows, and held their breath before looking inside the room that is their precious child's home.
For me, this experience was long, SO long. My babies were so small and one of the first times I was able to be wheeled down to the nicu they were hooked up to tubes and wires and had an IV sticking out of their heads. It was overwhelming to say the least. I was talking to a friend, asking for advice about her baby boy who is so big, healthy, and normal now and she related that not many people can understand that when you have a baby early or your baby is sick, you are in survival mode. You aren't in the blissful state that most new moms are in, oohing and ahhing over a beautiful baby. You are constantly wondering if they're breathing, if they're eating, if their IV went in ok, and why the eff can't my milk come in faster. There is no "recovery" period unless of course you are unconcious, then you don't have a choice, but (at least for me) as soon as I could feel my body again I was begging to go see my babies. It hurt more than anything I've ever felt to stand for the first time after my c-section, like ALL of my weight was being supported by my incision (or "wound" as the hospital called it) but I WOULD get myself to that wheel chair and I DID. And I wasn't a "normal" c-section recovery patient, I had pre-eclampsia, my blood pressure was high, I had head aches and there was fluid in my lungs. I hear they like to make people get up soon after their surgery, they were begging to wait as long as possible, but I wouldn't, I couldn't, I had just had 2 babies and didn't feel like their mother yet. I needed to see them, to touch them because maybe then I would recognize and know them as my babies. At that point I couldn't even remember what they looked like. I had to keep looking at the pictures we took, that was how I knew my babies.
The first time being wheeled into the NICU, I had to show my mama bands, be let into a secure area and told the room number my babies were in. I was wheeled in and the nurse had to tell me who my sons were and which was baby A and baby B (I did get to tell them how to pronounce their names though, score 1 for them feeling like my babies). I also had to ask permission to touch my sons and told how to touch them correctly, even how to open their isolettes to be able to touch them. There is a disconnect to being a parent that you (I) feel (felt) as a nicu mama and its difficult to deal with. I became fixated on producing milk for my babies because that proved I was their mom (right) and I couldn't produce milk for 2 days I believe, which is normal and to be expected but it was SO frustrating. I needed to be able to produce milk to feel like I could do something to take care of my babies. Finally my milk came in and it was the most gratifying feeling at that time. Beautiful. I was so proud when I would fill up my freezer space for my two boys! I was finally their mom! There were other experiences that would make me feel like their mom, holding them for the first time, kangaroo care, and our first attempts at nursing. Those were the many "ups" of the nicu. People describe life in the nicu as a roller coaster and they are exactly right. Our downs were not so deep as some and for that we are grateful but I'll never forget the breath I would take right before peeking inside the room doors to see if any equipment was removed or added to my boys. There were days I would call ahead before coming in because I knew if they had regressed I would need to prepare myself so as to not cause a scene at their bedside, not that anyone would even bat an eye. Tears, sobbing, big, ugly, red-faced, snorting cries, its all acceptable in the nicu. But really, that wasn't me. I wasn't a crier, in the nicu at least, I was a shownoemotionalwaysbepositivebutdontgetyourhopesup kind of person. Until one of my babies came home and I got my hopes up. so up. Then my other baby had a brady. That was a hold your baby, while staring at the carseat you brought in and silently cry kind of low. That was a letdown, and not the good breast milk kind, the hopes were up high kind. Bradys are scary. A brady means the baby's heart rate dropped too low. Sometimes a brady means without intervention, even as simple as a back rub, my baby's heart could have stopped altogether. Bradys suck. So we went on a "spell count" no brady's for 5 days. Also, no high hopes for 5 days, I did not want to be crushed again. No carseat test until they made me on Day 4. Then he was ready to come home I would have BOTH of my babies at home and as happy (excited, thrilled, elated, whichever word you think is most positive) as I was, I was also scared out of my mind! My babies had been on monitors to make sure their hearts were beating and they were breathing since they were born and all of a sudden they were going to be cut off. All of the most awful what ifs came to mind. I won't name them, if you are a parent, I'm sure you've though of them before, but they seemed so real as nicu parent. I had no happy oblivious "it won't happen to me" bubble. It already did happen to me and I didn't want it to happen again. Anyway, obviously we made it. We're home, adjusting, healthy and happy, but still learning how to be. just be.