Having my son was hands-down the best experience of my life. However, the week after he was born was hell. My son had to stay in the NICU for a week, which was an exhausting, emotional roller coaster of a time. I know I shouldn't complain because there are plenty of babies that have to stay in there much longer and he is alive and healthy, but I still can't help but feel robbed from my newborn experience.
After being in labor almost 24 hours I started to get a fever. Instead of getting me Tylenol like I requested, the nurses started talking about infection and spending 2 days in the NICU. This was all so new to me, so I didn't understand why they were bringing in multiple doctors to get their opinions. Instead of bringing me to get a C-section right away, they kept monitoring my vitals until they made the decision to whisk my son away 30 minutes after birth.
I had my son, had my immediate life changing experience of holding my new baby while we stared into each others eyes for a time-stopping moment, but then he was taken. I was so out of it and in shock from the whole traumatic experience of giving birth that I initially wasn't phased by the absence of my son. The nurses rushed me to the shower, made me eat, and brought me and my belongings to a new room. Then the gave me permission to go see my son, who was now hooked up to machines and IV's.
My already crazed emotions were even more overwhelmed as we rang in to be buzzed into the NICU. There were so many different bells and whistles, nurses, and babies hooked up to machines. Our son was the biggest baby in the NICU, weighing in at 9 lbs 3 ounces at birth. He looked strangely out of place, yet here we were. We had a healthy pregnancy, a long yet smooth delivery, so why was he in here when he should have been in my room with me?
The doctors explained that my water was broken too long, and I started showing signs of infection (the fever I mentioned earlier), and they had to ensure that our son didn't catch an infection as well. This meant they had to run multiple tests and samples from our new baby. Each day was brought with different numbers and abbreviations that sounded like gibberish to me. The only thing I cared about was if our son was OK, and when we would get to go home.
The days dragged on, with no clear end in sight. We were made to feel like we should only visit our son every 3 hours, to feed and change him. The rest of the time he was spent sleeping in a small plastic "bassinet" in a brightly lit room with alarms going off constantly. I had to leave my room after the mandatory 2 days, but luckily the hospital let NICU mothers stay in empty rooms in the Pediatric wing, if they were available. I shared a room with another mother, separated by a thin curtain.
I felt numb. The days were spend counting the hours to see my son, taking small cat naps, and pumping breast milk for his next feeding. The time I was in my room I was crying to myself, missing my son. Every walk to the NICU I went past the rooms of other moms with their newborns, feeling mostly envious. They were trying to quiet their crying babies, and I just wanted to experience those moments. The right-of-passage moments into motherhood that these other moms were getting, I was missing.
That two days turned into a week , when finally we got the "all clear" and got permission to go home. It was 9 at night when we finally got to leave. We didn't get our celebratory moment of taking our baby home. We were sleep deprived, exhausted, and relieved all at the same time. For us it was a completely different feeling than it would've been if we never had to stay at the NICU.
Although it was an awful experience, I am thankful for the NICU, our nurses, and neonatologists. They all helped us ease into the world of parenting, and gave our son the utmost care. They did everything they could to make sure that our son was healthy and able to go home. Even though I feel robbed of my newborn experience, I know that it was necessary, and in my son's best interest.
For tips on how to survive the NICU, go follow My Life on a Whim.