When you hear a mother or a father say their little one was a preemie, most people only think about the baby’s journey in the hospital. There is more to it than that. The parent’s journey along with their baby is a struggle for most people to share.
For us, the trip to go see Ethan wasn’t that bad for the first month. The first week I was just 1 floor above him. It only took for me to crawl out of bed into the wheel chair, Joel to “push” (it was more of a run) me down to the elevators and then we were right there by Ethan’s room. The first thing we’d do after saying hello to Ethan was to look at the bored to check the weight and get the nurse to hear an update on how his night went. Then once I was discharged, we stayed across the street at an assistant housing for families with loved ones in the hospital. I was amazing, literally a 3 minute walk and we were right by Ethan’s side. But once we realized we need to start sleeping at home for our animal’s sake, life got a lot harder. I would have anxiety attacks on our drives away from our baby. There were a few nights that after we got home and in bed, I forced my husband back into the truck to go back to the hospital. I’m sure I cried every night I left Ethan’s side. I felt horrible. You learn quickly that life continues even though you want all time to stop outside of the hospital so you can have that little bit of extra time with your baby. The dire need to want to hold your baby 24/7 is strong.
Learning how the NICU works took us a little bit of time, at least for me. I never really paid much attention to what people would tell us the first few days unless it was about Ethan. It was a struggle. We weren’t allowed to have food or drinks in the NICU rooms. Oh, the hunger! There were many days I was so hungry but didn’t want to leave Ethan’s side. We had neighbors that we heard plenty about but we didn’t know any of them. You want to be more open to meeting the new people around you and go to the meeting but at that moment, being with your baby was always way more important. We didn’t meet anyone besides the nurse and doctors until after about a month of being there. It was also hard dealing with the constant flow of new nurses coming and going. There would be times when we would have the same day/night nurse for 3 days in a row but never longer than that. Then when we would put a nurse on our preferred list, we’d never see them again. It got to the point that we were either wondering the hallways looking for our favorite nurses or they would pop into our room to say hi and catch them up on how Ethan was doing.
We all know that when a machine in a hospital beeps, it’s not a good sign. Especially, when that machine is hooked up to your 11 weeks early preemie baby. The first few days were nerve-wracking listening to the beeping. We freaking out every time we heard one of the machines go off just to see a nurse running in, in our room and in the other baby’s rooms. Joel and I sat there and learned how every machine worked and which one made what noise the first few weeks. By week 3, we were pros. When it came to care time, we had Ethan changed, temp taken, his o2 sensor moved to the other foot, and be ready for kangaroo time by the time the nurse walked into the room. The nurse caught on quick that we liked to start his route 10 minutes early to make sure he got his food right on the hour every time.
When Ethan was just born he had to have a nose cannula for oxygen. The nose cannula was massive compared to his little head. Which meant that every time it was moved or adjusted, his little head was moving right along with it. Sometimes it was hard to watch the nurses handle your baby. Oh, the removing of the tape on his face, ugh. I wanted to hurt some people watching them remove tape from his little raw cheeks. Or watching them put in a new feeding tube just to see your baby gagging. Ugh!!! There was nothing more that I wanted to do most days but to kidnap my own baby. Not only because there were those little moments I couldn’t stand to see the reasons why my little one learned to cry. But also for the fact that you’re going stir crazy from being in the same hospital room day in and day out when all you want to do is take your baby home and enjoy the summer sun.
But nothing will change how our time there changed us forever. The wonderful staff we became close with every single day we were there. Our experience was our very own. It was a hard roller coaster for us but different than the babies in the rooms next to us. We were lucky. Ethan was a strong little fighter who made his way out of the NICU with only little pokes, some sore skin from the tape and one little scar on his forearm.