Before Harper was born, we were preparing for her to stay in the NICU for a while. (Check out our Labor & Delivery story to learn why Harper stayed in the NICU). About three months before she was born, we took a tour of the NICU and met a few doctors and nurses. They showed us the different NICU pods, as well as, a private room for Mom, Dad, and Baby to stay if we decided to do comfort care. During Harper’s stay in the NICU I learned and experienced a lot of different things that I didn’t prepare for.
Here are nine things that I learned:
You will be on the same wing with moms and babies.
After giving birth they rolled me to the postpartum wing where I spent four nights to recover. In the middle of the night, I would lay there and listen to all of the babies cry as their mothers tried to comfort them. When Dillon rolled me to the NICU wing, we would pass mothers holding their babies in their rooms with family and friends surrounding them. At one point, I made Dillon stop my wheelchair before entering the NICU because I needed a moment to cry.
Tip: Take headphones and find a soothing station on Pandora to listen to while you are trying to get some rest.
You may not get to hold your baby.
I didn’t get to hold Harper until she was nearly 24 hours old. Nurses and doctors were nervous to move her because she had an arterial line in her belly button. They let me hold her again before her surgery. After that, I didn’t get to hold her for eight days. Before she was born, I imagined holding her whenever I wanted to.
Tip: Bring books to read to your baby or quietly sing him or her a song. Dillon and I would sit in there and talk about different life experiences so she could hear our voices.
You may want family and friends to wait to come and visit.
Our NICU had a policy that only two people could be next to the baby’s bedside. Dillon and I would take turns walking one of our family members back to go meet Harper. We would spend 20 or 30 minutes back there, while the other spouse waited in the waiting room with the rest of the family. Honestly, we both wanted to be back there together, bonding with our new baby. Also, our NICU only allowed 6 family members to see Harper the entire time she was in the NICU. Some family members were hurt because we didn’t pick them.
Tip: Have family and friends wait a couple of days to come and visit. That will allow you and your spouse to bond with your new baby and it will also give you time to learn about the rules and regulations of the NICU. During those first couple of days, Facetime and send pictures to family and friends.
You may have to leave the hospital without your baby.
When it was time to pack up our belongings, I folded Harper’s going home outfit and put it in my bag. We got in the car and left without a baby in the car seat. When we got home, I walked into Harper’s nursery. I sat down in the glider, wishing she was in my arms so I could show her what her room looked like.
Tip: Find out if your NICU will allow you to decorate the baby’s bed and put clothes on him/her. I didn’t know this until week 2 of Harper being in the NICU. I was so excited to put pretty blankets on her bed and dress her up in clothes and bows.
Tip: Ask parents if they would like to go have lunch with you and your spouse. We did this with one of the couples and it was so nice to leave the NICU for a couple of hours.
You will learn medical terms that you didn’t know existed.
The first few days I thought the doctors and nurses were speaking a foreign language. By day five, I’m pretty sure I could pass the medical board exam. I’m kidding. But seriously, we learned a lot of medical terms. This is when talking with NICU parents come in handy because it took a while for our close friends and family to understand what we were talking about.
Tip: If you have no idea what a doctor or nurse is talking about, ask them questions and have them explain whatever it is. It took me a while to feel comfortable to ask questions because I wasn’t sure how or what to ask. When I finally started to understand what words and terms meant, I asked every question that came to my mind.
You will love and envy your baby’s nurses.
All of Harper’s nurses were amazing. They were all very optimistic about her life knowing her diagnosis. When Harper was able to get milk through her NG tube, the nurse on duty that night waited until Dillon and I got there so I could give Harper milk for the very first time. I smiled from ear to ear when she handed me the syringe full of milk. There were also times when I envied the nurses. They were with Harper 24/7. If she cried in the middle of the night, I wasn’t there to be able to comfort her so a nurse would have to.
Tip: Buy a cheap recording device and record yourself singing a song or reading a book. When you are not there, ask a nurse to play the device when your baby starts to get fussy.
You will celebrate milestones that are not common.
Harper was on different types of oxygen: intubated, CPAP, and high flow. Every time the doctors bumped her oxygen down and she maintained her saturations, we celebrated! When nurses removed her arterial line and IV lines, we celebrated! Dillon’s favorite milestone was when Harper graduated from the bed with the heat lamp and put into a regular bed.
Tip: Buy or make milestone tags. There are a few shops on ETSY and Facebook that make them for NICU and/or premature babies. Take pictures of all of those milestones! This is one thing I wish I would have done.
You will feel every emotion when your baby graduates.
Harper spent three weeks in the NICU. When she finally graduated and able to come home, Dillon and I were so excited. We were also sad to say goodbye to all of the amazing nurses that we created relationships with. The biggest emotion I wasn’t prepared for was being scared. Harper came home with a lot of eqipment. What if something stopped working or I forgot how to use it? What if she stopped breathing or her ng tube came out? At one point, Dillon told me to stop worrying and just enjoy the moment of her coming home.
Tip: Give your baby as many kisses and snuggle with them for however long you want because your baby is finally home.
Read our latests posts to see what has been going on with Harper:
Harper is 4 Months Old!
Will Harper Take a Bottle?
Life Update: Harper
Disclaimer: This is my experience during Harper’s time in the NICU. Some or all of these may not apply to other NICU moms. My experience is also based off of the NICU Harper stayed at. All NICUs are different and follow different rules and regulations.