That is how I describe my daughter in the NICU. She kicked some major butt in there. She was two months early and she thrived since the moment she was born. Having a baby in the NICU is very hard. It stinks that you can’t be with them 24/7 and it is hard to let someone else do the job that you should be doing. I always felt that Avery didn’t know who I was and we weren’t connecting like we would be if she was at home. We went to visit at least three times a day. We always went around feeding time so we could feed and change her. Usually they only let you hold your baby for a limited amount of time and then it’s back in incubator or bassinet they go. Sometimes we would luck out and get a cool nurse that would let us hold her a little longer 🙂 We stayed very close to the hospital so we were able to get a lot of time with her. Don’t get me wrong I am very grateful to the nurses and NICU staff it’s just hard to let someone else parent your child. I wanted to be the one feeding and cuddling with her at night and I couldn’t that was very hard.
Avery was a little spunky in the NICU. She pulled out her feeding tube constantly and she threw her nuk out of the incubator. She wasn’t in the incubator for too long. Avery shared a room with three other babies. The nurses are in the room 24/7 watching the babies and taking care of them. All of the babies were on monitors to watch their breathing and other things depending on their condition. When the monitors went off it was very loud. But the babies always slept through. The nurses had Avery on a schedule which was wonderful. She ate every four hours. They would have us change her first to wake her up a little bit and then feed her. Lastly it was snuggle time ❤ The nurses always let us do what we wanted as far as feeding and such as long as we were comfortable with it. (It does get a little awkward dealing with all of the monitors, cords and tubes.) We were able to bring her own clothes and blankets in for her and she was able to have a couple stuffed animals. We were responsible for washing her clothes and blankets that we brought in which I liked because I felt like I was able to care for her in another way besides “visiting” three times a day. I was told she was the best dressed baby in the NICU 😉 Avery was only able to have four visitors at a time including us so we tried as best as we could to let everyone have time with her.
Avery overcame quite a few hurdles in the NICU and shortly after being released. The first and for me the worst hurdle was that she would stop breathing while she ate from a bottle. (She would also quit breathing at random times at first but she quit doing that before she went home. )That is the scariest thing I have encountered in my life so far. (I say so far because I have the worst luck in the world) They call them Bradycardia’s. In the NICU she was on monitors 24/7 so the “episodes” weren’t as scary. Then you bring your baby home and she stops breathing when you are feeding her. I mean she turned blue the whole works. It would only last for mere seconds but it felt like a lifetime. The thing that worked best to get her to start breathing again would be to flick the bottom of her foot.
The second hurdle was a small heart murmur. We weren’t told about it at first because the Doctor didn’t hear it every time he made rounds. So shortly before she was to go home he decided it would be best to do an Echocardiogram of her heart to make sure this murmur really wasn’t a big deal. The problem was when they decided to tell us it wasn’t us. It was just my husband. I was actually getting my port put in for chemo. (I had my first round while my daughter was in the NICU) So I get out of my procedure and I am a little foggy. Not because I was put under, because I was getting chemo and the info they give you alone on your first round of chemo is enough to make your brain hazy. Not to mention the rat poison you are receiving. My husband comes into the recovery room and proceeds to tell my that our daughter has murmur but it’s no big deal and she will be fine. I kind of lost it. Now I know my husband is an adult and is smart and capable enough to understand the whole echo thing and I trusted Avery’s NICU Doctor but I like to be there when information is relayed. I want to hear from the Doctor that everything is going to be okay. I just kept thinking about how much Avery had been through in her little life already and now a heart issue. Now I know they really didn’t have a choice on telling just my husband since I was unavailable at the time between my port placement, chemo and scheduling the echo. I was able to be there for the echo which made me feel better. They did the echo the same day and the pediatric cardiologist was AMAZING. She hugged me and assured me Avery was going to fine and they were just doing this to be 100% sure that there was nothing wrong. (I think she hugged me because I was crying but whatever it was nice of her.) Avery slept through the whole thing and it turned out she was fine. I am glad they did the echo because I would have always wondered if they didn’t.
The third was Jaundice which is pretty common even in full- term babies. Avery’s was pretty minor and she really didn’t have to be under the “lights” for very long. They have to wear these little felt like goggles covering their eyes when they are having the treatment and the NICU drew little eyelashes on them. It was cute 🙂
After three long weeks in the NICU Avery was able to come home!! It was awesome to finally take her home. We were given the option to spend her last night in the NICU with her. We gladly said yes!! So we were given a private room that we could stay with her in. We were told it would be just us except a nurse would come and get her vitals since she was still a patient. It was wonderful to be able to spend the night with her and get used to everything. Especially since help was only a call light away 🙂 Needless to say we didn’t get much sleep that night. Every time she moved one of us would get up to check on her.
I know I mentioned before that I had a hard time leaving her and I was pretty much jealous that all of the nurses and staff got to spend time with my daughter and I had to go home. But that last night I got a glimpse of what it is like for these nurses. At 11:00 as promised a nurse came in to do Avery’s last set of vitals for her NICU stay. I had never met her before because she worked the night shift and we were usually at the Hope Lodge or at home by then. When she came in I really thought she was going to start crying. She kept saying how she had been taking care of Avery since she was born and that she kind of had a soft spot for her. She said how much she would miss her and her little personality. Now I had never seen this woman in my life but here she was caring for my daughter all night while I was resting and she cared for her so much. Then I realized it must be so hard for these nurses to let go of their patients. Now Avery was only in for three weeks but some babies have a much longer stay. One of her roommates had been there for a month or two before she came in and he had a long stay ahead of him. It finally hit me that it really does take a special person to become a NICU nurse. Having to deal with just Avery’s challenges was enough for me but being in a room with four babies that need so much care that takes a very special person. Luckily Avery was pretty healthy but there were a lot of babies in the NICU that were not. Avery was in a room but they also have the “pod” I think they called it were the much sicker babies were. I cannot even imagine what it is like to have that weight on your shoulders. Not only do you have your boss but you have other nurses, Doctors and the babies families depending on you and critiquing your work constantly. I really am very grateful for the nurses that cared for my baby when I couldn’t be there. Some of the nurses went above and beyond. One nurse made little pictures for the babies with their names on them and for the different seasons. Some nurses would take pictures for you. For Halloween the nurses put Avery in a Halloween outfit my aunts bought for and took pictures for me. One of the nurses always explained things to me in a way that didn’t make me feel stupid and made me feel like she was really trying to help us. Sometimes just having people there to talk to was so nice. Even if it wasn’t about all of the things going on in our life it was nice to “forget” for a while. Another nurse was a breast cancer survivor so we would talk shop about chemo and she had tons of advice and gave me a couple of numbers for wig shops. Avery’s Doctor was wonderful. He always made sure we understood everything before he would leave and he didn’t talk down to us. I can only hope that the staff knows how much I appreciated them during Avery’s stay. If you ever have to go through the NICU journey try to understand that the staff is doing what is best for you and your baby. I know it is hard sometimes to understand why a nurse did that or why the respiratory therapist did this but put yourself in their shoes. When you are not there these people are and they are making sure that your baby is going to come home as soon and safe as possible.