Tag Archives: NICU

Parenting Preemies

3 Aug

NICUday1a Day 1

No parent dreams of spending time in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU).  Most of us plan to have children and then the imagination takes us on a journey, but never to a place so dark and surreal as the NICU.  We make love, we hope, we pee on sticks, and from the moment that stick changes our lives forever, we dream of what he or she will bring to life!

We get ultrasounds.  We find out if it is a boy or a girl–or choose to be surprised.  In 1976 when I had my first pregnancy, this option did not exist.  Fifteen years later, I had two ultrasound exams.  The first on October 2nd showed that I was 5-6 weeks pregnant.  I was thrilled.  The father was apprehensive because we were not living together at the time I found out I was pregnant, and although we had seen each other frequently in August, he was aware that I had dated someone else in mid September.  I understood his skepticism about the paternity of this child, but I knew without a doubt he was the father.

Nobody dreams of starting a family this way.

I had been dreaming of my second chance at motherhood for more than a decade.  I had failed on my first opportunity–single parenting in 1977 turned out to be too hard for someone with too much empathy.  It was excruciating to watch my little angel’s future swirling down the toilet because of my stupidity.  She deserved better (than me).

Fifteen years later, the joy of being pregnant was an early Christmas present.  I was so happy!  I was relieved.  It had taken so long–many years since I had stopped taking birth control pills.  I was past the point of seeking help from a fertility doctor (my ex husband was supposed to go first because that is the way they figure out why you are not getting pregnant).  Anyway, this is not about how we get pregnant, it is about parenting preemies.  My point is, none of us ever imagined being in the NICU.  One does not know what a NICU is until one wishes they did not know.

My second ultrasound was on December 31st.  “Have you been spotting?” the technician asked.  Spotting–you mean bleeding?  No.  Why did she ask?  Was something wrong?  There was…a “partial placenta previa”…that meant there was a risk of rupture.  Nobody said that word then.  Rupture.  Nobody mentioned the probability of a premature rupture of membranes, a different kind of PROM.  No, the only hint of a warning received at that poorly managed prenatal clinic was a yawning instruction that if  I started “spotting” to call the clinic.  This is where Day 1 in the NICU begins.  With an innocent mistake like this.  Yes, I did start spotting and of course called the clinic, and was told to lay down and keep my knees up until it stopped.  And whew, it stopped.  And then a week later the traumatic event happens and suddenly you have to be the grizzly mama, fighting for survival and the survival of your cub!

‘Parenting preemies’ means that long after your tiny one has grown into a fine young man pursuing his dream through a college degree, you are still concerned about all tiny ones because you shared the NICU experience with 31 flavors of family.  There were 30-plus babies in there on any given day.  My son’s NICU was a Level 4, and the premier hospital for preemies in the region.  Babies were flown in helicopters to this hospital because these neonatologists and their team were best in class.  These specialists were consulted by doctors from all over the globe!   That’s how lucky my tiny one was–but don’t think for a second that that was sufficient to give me an ounce of peace.  You know the agony of which I speak!

Day 1 of the NICU holds the terror and nausea and numbness of a shell-shocked combat veteran.  It took me five hours to go downstairs to see him there like that, not because I slept for five hours after surgery, not because I was unable to get from the fourth floor to the first floor…it took five hours to go to the NICU because something was absolutely blocking me from even thinking about it.

So today, for no apparent reason other than I simply stumbled onto something about it that has to be brought to light, 24 years and 163 days since it happened, I extend a hand to those who are parenting preemies today in the NICU…and today in the sensory integration playground…and today in the pediatrician’s waiting room.  I reach back to tell you it is going to be okay-ish.  Hang tough.  These tiny ones are mighty big fighters!


Carma & her son on graduation day, BHHS 2011