For most, pregnancy is a time filled with hope and expectation. Every family hopes for an uncomplicated birth and a healthy baby. But every experience is different, and sometimes the unexpected arises. Meet Alexis – and learn more about her NICU experience at ECHN’s Family Birthing Center.
I am a nurse midwife. I work on labor & delivery. I know that babies often go to the NICU for various reasons. Most of the time, everything is fine and they are back with mom quickly, so what makes this experience so difficult? This is my NICU experience after delivering my son, Ezra James, 6 weeks premature. He was born on September 1, the first day of NICU awareness month.
I went into preterm labor at 32 weeks and was hospitalized until delivery. This meant 2 weeks of discussion with obstetric and neonatal providers regarding what to expect with a preemie. I had more mental preparation than most women are afforded prior to delivering. For parents who are not exposed to the medical environment with their jobs, the discussion of any intervention can be confusing and scary. Fortunately, I had the knowledge and understanding of “why” my baby needed help, but it did not make it much easier to accept when the time came. When he was born, we had a neonatal provider and nurse present in the room. Luckily, Ezra was breathing well on his own and was able to stay on my chest for 15 minutes before moving to the NICU.
My husband got to follow him there for his first interventions. Ezra was attached to leads that monitored his heart rate, respiratory rate, and oxygen saturation. He only weighed 4lb 7oz. Initially, he had low blood sugar and needed an IV for a dextrose infusion. He also had a nasogastric (NG) tube placed to supplement his feeds. When we were finally able to hold him, we had to carefully navigate all the tubing and wires. We couldn’t help but think about how uncomfortable he must be and wish that there was something we could do to make him healthy enough to not need any of it.
While I was still admitted at the hospital, the NICU was conveniently located on the same floor as my room so I could visit whenever I wanted to. However, on day 2, I was discharged home and Ezra had to stay. We were told to call the NICU whenever we wanted an update and were always welcome to come in for a visit; this unlimited access was comforting. What I wouldn’t fully grasp until it happened was how powerful postpartum hormones are and the emotional charge that comes with being separated from your baby. The night that my husband and I drove home without our baby, I sobbed.
Due to covid, we did not have the in-person support from family. A relative sent me a message about her child being in the NICU and the line that gave me the most comfort was, “you have the most qualified babysitters looking after him.” I let this sink in as a first-time mom and realized that I don’t know everything about 34 week newborns and he needs help from people who do. He was receiving constant attention and his needs were more than met. My husband & I visited multiple times per day. Every nurse-both day and night shift-who cared for him gave us pearls of knowledge and tissues when I needed a good cry.
On our third night home, as we lay in bed wondering when we would all be home as a family, my husband said, “I have so much appreciation for NICU staff.” It’s a difficult job to care for a patient who cannot speak and whose worried parents question your every action. Each concern we had was met with a caring explanation. I had known this staff on a professional level from working with them as a midwife, but by the end of Ezra’s stay, they felt more like family.
If it weren’t for the loving support of Manchester Family Birthing Center staff, this experience could have been much scarier. We are happy to announce that after a 2 week stay, everyone is healthy and thriving at home, thanks to the care we received!