I apologize ahead of time for another long and wordy post, but it's important to me to get these thoughts and memories down in writing before I forget them.
Most parents head to the hospital knowing that labor and delivery can have unexpected twists and turns, but I doubt that most consider the fact that their baby could end up in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit - I certainly didn't think much about this possibility. I had hoped to have Violet placed on my chest, where we would immediately try to breastfeed. I pictured us going to our recovery room as a happy little family, where I could roll over and see my baby any time I liked, hold my baby anytime I liked, and feed my baby anytime I liked. This was not our story.
While I did get to hold my baby for a few brief seconds immediately after her birth (for which I am incredibly grateful to my midwife), due to her meconium aspiration she was quickly taken to triage and ultimately to the NICU. I had some small experience with this due to the fact that my nephew was in a NICU for some time due to infection and meconium aspiration, but still the scenario didn't really enter my thoughts as I prepared to give birth.
When I finally was taken to see my little girl, she was hooked up to so many tubes and wires that I was afraid to touch her, let alone hold her. At first I wasn't even sure if we were allowed to hold her. That is one thing about having your baby in the NICU - I really felt like I had to ask permission to do anything but look at my little girl - which is a really strange feeling.
Our first visit with Violet was brief, as it was late, I had just given birth, and was absolutely exhausted. Luckily, on our visit the following day, we were asked by a sweet nurse if we would like to try Kangaroo Care (K-Care) with our baby. She explained that it can help baby's progress to have skin to skin contact with mommy and daddy. We of course immediately agreed! I can't begin to describe how absolutely amazing it felt to hold her in my arms again:
Daddy did K-care also:
Violet had received some x-rays at this point, and things were looking good. Her lungs had been affected, but not significantly, and we were told that she was improving. We were absolutely elated at this news and hoping to have our baby home as soon as possible.
The following day brought a lot of firsts. Violet got her first parent diaper change from her daddy:
She took it easy on him the first day - no poopy diaper yet! Later that day her breathing tube came out and she received some of her mommy's first pumped colostrum through her feeding tube (which was now in her nose so that we could possibly try breastfeeding!)
That evening we got to try breastfeeding for the first time. It went great - she latched well and had a strong suck. Unfortunately I was a little torn up from the pump (I'll save that story for later), so it hurt a little, but other than that it wasn't as bad as I expected. Unfortunately the Hubster only had one personal day left and wanted to save it for Violet's home coming, so he had to go home that night to rest up for work the next day. It was really hard for him to leave, but I'm so glad he saved his last day to come home with us.
Luckily, my mom came to stay with us that night in his place. I don't know what I would have done without her. Every three hours the NICU would call up to my room in Maternity, and we would wake up and trek down to the NICU (about a five minute walk) to feed Violet. With my stitches and still recovering from giving birth, I have to say that it was utterly exhausting. The nurses kept trying to convince me to take a break and let her have formula, but I wanted to be with my baby and nurse her. Every time I saw her sweet face, it was totally worth it.
Since Violet was doing so well with nursing, they removed her feeding tube the next day, and she was down to just the IV and electronic monitors. It was so nice to see her beautiful face without tape and tubes!
Here's a pic with my mom, Mamaw, Violet, and me - four generations!
My dad and the Hubster's parents visited that day as well:
She looked much happier with her face free and we even saw a few smiles:
That evening, we were given the amazing news that if things continued to go well, she would most likely be discharged the next day. We also were offered to room in at the NICU overnight, which was a Godsend. My legs were incredibly swollen at this point, and I didn't know if I could keep making the trek from Maternity. Before bed we gave Violet her first parent sponge bath and learned to swaddle her. It was such a great feeling to have her little bassinet right next to my bed.
On Friday - our final day in the NICU - we were really put through the ringer. We woke up early and Violet had her car seat test. She had to sit in it for an hour with her oxygen levels above 90. Unfortunately they would periodically dip to the high 80's. We were afraid we'd have to take her home in a car bed, or worse, leave her in the NICU. Luckily the pediatrician decided that since we lived so close she'd be fine in the car seat, with the caveat that we not take her on any long drives for a few weeks. We had an infant CPR class, went over baby care procedures with the NICU nurse, and had her evaluated by the pediatrician. We finally fed her one final time, bundled her in her car seat, and took our baby girl home! I took a parting shot of Violet's space in the NICU:
I can't say enough how amazing the nurses and doctors in the NICU and hospital were - we were so blessed to have such good people taking care of us and our little girl during our short stay. Despite that I can honestly say that the only thing I will miss about the NICU are the K-Care chairs. They are hideously ugly, but incredibly comfortable. I tried to convince the Hubster to pack one into the Rav4, but for some reason he didn't think the hospital would appreciate that. Otherwise, I hope to never see the NICU again (except maybe for their yearly reunion).
I often sit at home looking at my beautiful baby and think about how lucky we really are - there were so many tiny babies in there whose parents had to go home without them. I just can't imagine that feeling. Some will be in the NICU for weeks or even months. My thoughts and prayers go out to all of these babies and their parents and I wish for them health, happiness, and home as soon as their little bodies will allow for it.