As a new mom, the NICU is a spectacular place in theory, especially if it isn’t necessary for my baby. We are grateful for its existence as a precaution, but obviously don’t want to face the reality of needing what it provides. And truly, no new mom really believes that they will have to scrub up in order to be near their baby. But that’s a possibility and a reality for many parents.
I’ve had interactions with the NICU personally on one or two occasions, but never thought that it would be necessary for my own child one day.
Our story is tame compared to thousands of others, and I am so humbly aware of how much worse things could have been. But our sudden reality was that our brand new baby girl was in need of serious medical attention after only a few days of having her home with us.
As I’m sure we’re all aware of, this year’s cold/flu season was a doozie. According to the NY Times, it was the worst we have seen in nearly a decade, claiming that it was more intense than the outbreak of the swine flu in 2009.
So, as you can imagine, having a baby right in the middle of one of the worst flu seasons was not void of worry. We brought home our daughter Logan and got to snuggle her for 10 days before life turned topsy turvey on us.
Only a week after being home, Logan seemed to have caught the cold her older brother had been fighting the week prior. It was incredibly mild at first, but being an anxiety-prone, overprotective mom, we waltzed into the pediatrician’s office just to be safe. Aside from the occasional raspy cough, Logan had no other symptoms. Her pediatrician sent us on our way after a test for RSV and a rundown on the symptoms I needed to keep my eyes out for over the weekend until the test results came in.
Three days later, she and I lay skin to skin on the couch, trying to encourage her rising fever to decline. Only an hour later, my husband was walking our girl and my weepy self out to the car to head to the emergency room. We spent most of the day in the ER, with continuous monitoring, a few tests and the assumption that Logan was in no real danger, and that we would be discharged that day.
It’s truly amazing how quickly things can change in a matter of seconds, and before we knew it, we were being rushed up to the NICU due to the RSV test coming back positive and Logan’s oxygen levels declining quickly.
Logan spent 12 days in an RSV quarantine, being continuously monitored by the amazing nursing staff at Loma Linda University.
I learned a great deal during Logan’s time in the NICU, such as a new form of patience with both time and people, and the important reality that the medical field really is a practice, meaning that initial diagnosis’ aren’t always correct.
[bctt tweet=”I learned that being a NICU nurse is an incredible challenge, and that most of the nurses that came into our life genuinely cared about us as people, and not just patients.” via=”no”]
But if I could extend any reminders or advice as a mom of a baby in the NICU, it would be this:
- Be realistic with your parents. There’s nothing worse than getting your hopes up about your baby due to something a nurse said in consolation only to find out that the information is not accurate for your particular case. Yes, we wanted our baby home as soon as possible, but if norm has been that babies with this strand of RSV have been kept for 7-10 days, please don’t tell me that she could be home in 2-3 days (even if that is a possibility). Let me be pleasantly surprised instead of heartbroken that she’ll be there longer.
- Be gentle with your diagnosis and with your care. Give moms room to be upset, even if it might seem silly due to all of your expertise. If possible, give room for moms to be near their baby before a major procedure, even if the goal is to get the procedure done as soon as possible. There’s nothing worse than having a medical professional tell you they aren’t willing to wait for you to hold your baby’s hand and pray over them before they begin intensive testing. Give a time limit if necessary, but remember that this is traumatic for new parents.
- Be patient and kind. The nurses that I loved most were the ones that filled me in on Logan’s stats and vitals as soon as I walked into the room, and then took the time to make themselves available for questions or conversation. They were the ones that told me to go home and get rest, the ones who took interest in my life outside the hospital, and the ones that would make it evident that they were my baby’s advocate while they were on the clock.
Logan now is 2 months old, and is doing amazing in literally every way. While I’m obviously quite grateful that she is home and thriving, I still reflect often our experience within the NICU and am so thankful for the wonderful people that we experienced during our time there.
Interested in continuing to expand your knowledge on developmental care of newborns and infants? Check out Kathi’s book club!