Our first was born too soon. She was 4 pounds, pretty big for a 31 week preemie. I was so proud and so scared.
The delivery did not go well. Just before our baby girl crowned, the doctor lost composure and told the nurses to get ready for surgery immediately or we were going to lose her. We didn’t lose her. I openly wept when I heard her cry.
She’s here! She’s alive! She’s breathing on her own! – These are not things a new parent should have to say.
Parenthood began with 3 weeks in the NICU. The experience was like an alien abduction movie. The NICU was full of babies hooked up to machines and monitors. The atmosphere is a mix of hope and despair. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
Our daughter never needed assisted-breathing but she wasn’t able to eat on her own. I held her while they inserted the feeding tube into her nose and down into her stomach. I would rather have been stabbed in the gut but I needed to be the one to hold her, to let her know it was for the best and that I was there to make sure everything would be okay.
I learned to change a diaper while minding tubes and wires.
I learned to bathe my daughter without aggravating the intravenous.
My wife and I learned to chart bowel movements, weigh diapers, measure fluids, and assess breathing patterns. We learned to read the monitors and interpret the beeps and bells so we knew how she was doing and what she needed to grow strong enough for us to take her home.
They say parents who spend enough time in NICU develop NICU-itis, an unhealthy dependence on the technology and routines of the NICU that lasts weeks after baby is finally home. We had a bad case of NICU-itis.
We bought the mother-of-all monitors from the baby store. We did all the things the nurses did in the NICU and recorded them in a log book I created. We didn’t take her out for fear of exposing her to germs. Guests had to be healthy and were required to wash hands with disinfecting soap. We finally stopped the madness about 3 months later and admitted to ourselves that Imogen was just fine and that we could stop treating her like a fragile preemie and just start being parents to a healthy baby girl.
Did you have a preemie?
Was your preemie a NICU baby?
Did you get NICU-itis?
Any questions about having a preemie or being in the NICU?