NICU Parents

After getting over the initial fear and anxiety of finding out I was pregnant, I was excited to share the experience on social media. My husband and I moved two states away after college, so social media has been my main way of staying connected with old friends.

I carefully planned how I would make the big announcement, as we nervously waited through the first trimester. After sharing the news, I was thrilled to find several people on my newsfeed were also expecting within months of myself.

We made the journey together, from our sheepish admissions of eating things we shouldn't, to our maternity clothes woes.

Then, one night after work, about a month before my due date, I noticed that my feet were particularly swollen. I had worked all day and then taught a night class, so I figured I just needed to cut back.

But, the swelling didn't get better, and I started having mild headaches. I'd seen enough episodes of I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant to know that those might be signs of something more serious. So I made an appointment with my doctor, even though I was just there a week ago. My blood pressure was high: that, combined with the swelling and headaches pointed to me having preeclampsia: a pretty serious condition for both Mom and baby.

We agreed I would monitor my blood pressure at home over the weekend on bed rest and report to the hospital if anything went up. We went to the hospital once, but I wasn't admitted, and was sent home with a prescription for blood pressure medication.

On Monday we went to my scheduled appointment and were sent directly to the hospital for induction. I was diagnosed with mild-to-moderate preeclampsia, and since we were only 4 weeks from our due date, they decided to induce.

After 24 hours and no progress, we were told to shower and get ready for another round of stronger induction medication. 

My husband went home to shower, and I showered in our hospital room. Immediately after stepping out of the shower I started feeling really weird and light headed. The nurses came in and reattached the monitors, but couldn't find the baby's heartbeat. They hooked up another device, which set off an alarm that sent several doctors charging into the room. I was given oxygen and told we had to go immediately for an emergency C-section. 

In the most terrifying few minutes of my life, I pleaded with anyone who would listen to call my husband, but they never did. They found and then lost the baby's heartbeat, and suddenly I was gone. 

When I woke up, my husband, mother, and doctor were there. Slowly, I learned the details of my son's delivery, and that both my husband and I had missed it. 

My baby wasn't breathing when he was born, and the cord was around his neck. The doctors were able to resuscitate him, but his breathing continued to be very labored. While they were figuring out what was causing his breathing problems, he was placed in the Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

This meant that not only did I miss my son being born after months of anticipation, but I also couldn't touch, hold, or even see him for 18 hours after he was born (the earliest my doctor would clear me to get out of bed considering I had just been gutted like a fish).

I asked my nurse to come get me as soon as I was allowed, and eventually wheeled my way down to the NICU. The nurse there was so amazing and loving that I felt at least a little better knowing she had been there when I couldn't.

Miles in the NICU, the day after he was born.

Miles in the NICU, the day after he was born.

Seeing that tiny little thing hooked up to all those wires and machines was very overwhelming. You feel so grateful they're alive, but so afraid of literally everything else.

Eventually, Miles was transferred to another NICU, better equipped to deal with his condition, and he came home after about a week. He's a happy and healthy kid now, but I learned so much during my week as a NICU Mommy.

I learned how much it hurts to see your friends post pictures of their healthy babies snuggled up in their hospital room post-delivery when you haven't even been allowed to hold yours for two days.

Me holding Miles for the first time, after being transferred to John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County.

Me holding Miles for the first time, after being transferred to John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County.

I learned to be grateful every day. Despite being a month early, Miles was over 7lbs and relatively healthy besides a partially inflated lung. The other kids in the NICU seemed to be in much more serious shape.

And I learned that I felt embarrassed to post on social media about Miles' health issues, delivery, and complications. I felt cheated and almost ashamed of not having the traditional birth story. No sweet pictures of my husband seeing his son for the first time. No embarrassing but beautiful photos of me looking a mess with a fresh-faced babe in my arms.

I was fortunate enough to have Emma and the Nelsons in my life, who had a NICU experience a couple years prior. So, I always knew I had someone who understood what I was going through. But for all the other NICU parents out there -- you are not alone, and your story deserves to be shared, even if it's non-traditional.