Everyone has a different experience being a NICU parent, this is my own personal experience.
My twin boys were born at 34 weeks and 4 days. I had a sudden onset of preeclampsia but thankfully was able to get two rounds of steroid shots before they were born. My first twin stayed in the NICU for 18 days and my second born twin stayed in for 13 days.
They were born by an emergency c-section and there were two teams of NICU nurses for each baby. After they were examined and had measurements taken I was able to hold them for a brief moment before they were taken to the NICU.
While my twins were in the NICU the doctors and nurses were so helpful and explained to me why my boys were there and the requirements they had to meet before they could go home. Every morning at 9 am the doctor would come into to each room and the nurses who worked the night shift would tell everyone there what happened during the night and the day shift nurse would take over after that. It was called the morning rounds and me and my significant other would get to be there and hear the recap of what was going on.
My first born, Theo, couldn’t eat on his own so he had a feeding tube in his nose. We would hear how much he drank by mouth at night and how much went into the ng tube. During the day I was able to try to feed him with the help of a speech therapist who taught me how to feed him properly and what to be on the lookout for.
My other son, Jason, was a fantastic eater but sometimes he would stop breathing and his heart rate and oxygen level would dip. It was scary to witness because the monitor alarms would go off and a nurse would come in to check on him. Every time he had a bradycardia incident he would be put on a five day watch. If he didn’t have an incident for five days it was unlikely that he would have another incident at all. One morning during the rounds the night shift nurse said Jason had a bad apnea/bradycardia incident while he was sleeping and he started to turn blue, she had to stimulate him and he woke up breathing again.
I would visit my boys every day and got to know all of the nurses. The nurses would let us change the diapers and feed them if we wanted or let us have a break as well. It was really emotional to leave my boys behind every day but the nurses always assured me that my boys would be taken care of. I felt guilty even leaving them so I could eat lunch. In the hospital they were at there was a little sitting area in front of the NICU that had a fridge fully stocked with drinks, snacks, and some food. I was so grateful for that so that I wouldn’t have to be too far from my boys.
After Jason’s watch for bradycardia incidents was over he finally was able to the car seat test. He had to sit in a car seat for 30 minutes and not have any incidents. After the 30 minutes was up the nurse came in and said he passed and could go home in the morning! His stay was 13 days and it felt like an eternity at the time.
We still came in every day to visit Theo. He still couldn’t eat very well on his own and would have to have most of his milk put in his ng tube. The doctor would always tell me that one day Theo would get the hang of eating and would be able to go home, too. It’s normal for premature babies to not know what to do.
We always went to every morning round until Jason came home. After having him at home we were still trying to get used to having one with us and one in the NICU. Since we were not there the nurse would call me and have the phone on speaker while going over the recap of what happened overnight. Then the nurse said Theo had been drinking all of his milk by mouth so they took his ng tube out! I was in disbelief, the day before he was still drinking half by mouth and half by feeding tube. It was that fast that he was able to drink by himself. They told me that they were going to do his car seat test after they got off of the phone and if he passed that and kept drinking all of his milk by mouth he would be discharged the following day. He was discharged the next day after 18 days in the NICU.
The NICU is such a hard place. I cried every day that my boys were there. The thing that kept me going is knowing that one day they would come home with me and the NICU wouldn’t last forever. No matter how long a baby is in the NICU it is always hard to deal with.
Thank you for reading about my personal experience being a NICU mom.