Because that is what it is. A rollercoaster ride. NICU stands for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
When we were told our baby would most likely be delivered prematurely we were spoken to about the NICU – where we were told Aaliyah would spend a couple months until she was a “full term” baby. The experience was described as a rollercoaster ride. It was also described as feeling as if you are taking 2 steps forward and 1 or sometimes 3 steps backs.
At the time I didn’t think about it and thought “okay that won’t be us” . Well. I was wrong. No one ever thinks that it will happen to them. Well I was humbled for lack of a better term.
THE ROLLERCOASTER RIDE
UP: First Cuddles a couple days after birth : holding her close skin to skin, feeling her live tiny body next to mine was the greastest feeling. I was scared to hold her at firstbut couldnt wait everyday after that.
DOWN: After being discharged from the hospital, the first night leaving Aaliyah was heart shattering… And every night after that…
UP & Some Loops: The first two weeks there were some sublte peaks and valleys – this is reffered to as the honeymoon period. Aaliyah was doing great and she was reffered to as a “sleep & grow” baby. Meaning she had very few issues. Don’t get it twisted, even having a “sleep and grow” baby will put you on the coaster. Leaving Aaliyah every night was a struggle, being at the hospital everyday was tough. These things alone are enough to throw you around a bit.
The overall mood of my day depended on how Aaliyah did that day, how many times did she forget to breath… If she had a lot of these episodes during our cuddles it felt worse. I felt responsible, guilty, just overall terrible. Although these episodes are common in premature babies it still worried me.
ULTIMATE LOW/Twist & Turns: At the two week mark, like a giant unexpected drop and turn, Aaliyah developed a serious bowel infection called necrotizing enterocolitis (http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/digestive/nec.html). This was the lowest part of our stay at the NICU. It was heart wrenching to see this little precious girl go through it. We hung on to every little positive feedback from nurses we could get… things like “wow, she is fiesty” gave us hope. Analyizing there facial expressions as they examined our little girl… LOOKING FOR ANYTHING TO HOLD ON TO. How did it happen so fast? She was doing so well! It is truely the scariest thing I have ever had to deal with.
Steady & UP: About 5 days later the docs told us she was recovering. YAY! I celebrated but only on the inside.
After this I was so cautious. When people asked me how she was I would reply ” she is okay” or “she is stable”. I would be afraid to say the she was “well” or “great”. I was afraid to say it… Afraid to believe she was going to be okay. I definitey believed… but only on the inside. I thought that if I let myself believe outloud I would be wrong. I didnt even like recieving gifts for her. Even when nurses would speak about when Aaliyah goes home I would get this flash of aniexty. As exciting as that thought was, I didnt want to talk about that even just in case it didnt happen. I reserved myself. Didnt want to get my hopes up unless there was a guarantee that Aaliyah would be coming home. This was the worst part of the experience. Holding back from feeling joy and celebrating the milestones because you are preoccupied with what will happen next. All any parent wants I think is to get a guarantee that their baby is going to be okay.
The journey at the NICU was more steady, on the up, after that however I still remained guarded. I had more questions, paid more attention. Aaliyah returned to a “sleep and grow” state. So from a day to day basis we rode back on the subtle peaks and valleys.
Although my pregnancy was not exactly what some may call smooth, I learned to enjoy the experience that was offered to me. In the NICU, just like a rollercaster ride, although scary and crazy, it can be fun and exciting. They wonderful people the work there help you to learn to celebrate the mini milestones, one day at a time. Some times one hour at a time. I recognize that I got alot of positive things through the experience. I was able to enjoy my daughter and build a strong bond with her. I was able to learn her pattern, behaviour and learned her needs and wants. I was able to sit and literally watch her grow from day to day. How wonderful! How Rich! Although the ride was painful, scary, exciting, joyous, happy, and sad I learned alot from my little girl. She is the strongest, most determined person I know. We enjoyed the ride.
“A person is a person no matter how small.” ~ Dr. Seuss
The NICU MOTTO!