As a health care provider who works in a hospital (and OCD about reading pretty much everything), I figured I didn’t need to do much research on the NICU, or neonatal intensive care unit, because I knew enough. There was a tiny chance my baby would end up there, as I had a completely healthy pregnancy. The only thing that went “wrong” was that I had an extra ultrasound to make sure baby was growing well, because I was measuring small (for reference, I’m 5’2″ and 110 at baseline).
Then it came time for baby to come out. Everything during the birthing process went ‘normal’ as well, with the only complication being low blood pressure.
So… what went wrong?
Baby came out, they put her on my chest, and no more than 5 seconds later she was in the isolette with more than 4 nurses and doctors surrounding her. That number quickly increased when they couldn’t figure out what exactly was wrong and why she wasn’t crying loudly like all babies do. They gave me another 5 seconds with my baby before whisking her away to the NICU, leaving my husband and I crying and wondering if she was going to be okay.
Fast forward an hour: my nurse wheeled me down to see her, which was a complete shock to say the least. I didn’t quite put it together that she would have all these lines and tubes coming out of her. At this point, I still didn’t know what was wrong and what would happen to her. She had:
- An IV in her hand [for fluids and medicine]
- CPAP [breathing machine] over her nose and mouth
- NG (nasogastric) tube down her nose/throat [to pull out fluid, and for feeding]
- Electrodes on her chest [to monitor her heart]
- Blood pressure cuff around her ankle
- Oxygen sensor on her foot
- And she was in the isolette box totally enclosed
She’s a fighter and recovered quickly, and we were discharged from the hospital 3 days later. I know that some parents are not so lucky, and I truly hope they have a great support system during a hard experience like this. I hope that reading this will help prepare you in case you find yourself in a similar situation. Being a first-time mother, everything was new to me. I read tons of articles on breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact, I heard from friends about how I would feel post-partum and much, much more. But the one thing I skipped over was reading about babies in the NICU. I wish I hadn’t, because it was scary.
I didn’t know if I could hold my baby, if I could try breastfeeding, or that I had to pump every 3 hours even at night (I didn’t have a crying, hungry baby next to me to let me know). I didn’t even know how often I could visit the NICU and how long I could stay! I would have felt more prepared and may have understood what I should and could be doing with my baby, if I had simply spent one night reading up on this topic, like I had with everything else.
You may still be scared and feel helpless if your baby ends up in the NICU, whether it was expected or not. I had a completely uneventful pregnancy AND birth, but my baby found a reason for needing additional special attention. I’d much rather be over-prepared than under-prepared, overwhelmed and lost.