The NICU, which stands for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit isn’t discussed in What To Expect When You’re Expecting, or The Girlfriends Guide to Pregnancy. Trust me, I’ve read them. It isn’t discussed at baby showers or Lamaze classes. No one tells you that you can leave the hospital with “Congratulations” on your baby balloons but no baby in your arms. No one tells you that you can come home to a Pinterest-worthy nursery but no baby to place gently inside the crib. However, it happens, and it happened to me. I was a NICU Mom.
I guess I should start at the beginning. I was thirty weeks pregnant and my mother in law joined me at my obstetrician appointment because my husband was out of town for work. We went to my regularly scheduled appointment and everything checked out fine. Later that night, my husband returned from his trip and we all went out to dinner. I wasn’t feeling well, so I ordered the chicken noodle soup, which we later nicknamed, “Labor soup.” We returned home and were all relaxing on the couch when I felt an unmistakable gush. My water unexpectedly broke. I excused myself and went to the bathroom to confirm what I already knew, then announced the news to my mother in law and husband.
I can’t even explain what took over my body, but I walked out of my house without shoes on, got into my car, and my husband drove me to the nearest hospital. At the hospital, they checked to confirm that my water had broken and informed me that I was going to be transported to Vermont Medical Center because they had the resources to support me and my baby. I was transported via ambulance and was told I wouldn’t be leaving the hospital before I delivered a baby. Ten short hours later, my son was born. All I can say is that my oven must run really hot!
As my son was born at 30 weeks, he had to learn how to breathe, regulate his body temperature, and eat. It took five weeks for him to acquire these skills and only two days for me to recover from birth. This meant that I was discharged long before he was, and I left the hospital without my baby.
To say that being a NICU mom was hard is an understatement. I was physically recovering from birth, pumping to support my baby’s life, and lived thirty minutes from my newborn child. Simply put, the experience sucked. There were, however, many people in our lives who reached out to help us in our time of need, and I will always be grateful for their generosity.
Due to the fact that the NICU isn’t discussed, and NICU visits are rarely planned, I think it is hard to support a family when their newborn is sick, which is why I am sharing my own NICU mom story. Based on our experience, these three things made our lives easier when our son was in the NICU:
- The first thing that significantly helped us was gas cards. Driving thirty miles back and forth each day to the NICU greatly increased our gas bill. Some of our friends chipped in and bought us gas cards which relieved a huge financial burden for us.
- The second thing that greatly helped was food. Friends of ours started a meal train, and we received easy precooked frozen dinners and snacks for when we were in the hospital. With our friends and family feeding us, we were able to stay at the NICU with our son longer.
- The final thing that greatly helped us during our five week NICU stay was a gift certificate for athleisure clothes. Because my baby was in a public place, I had the impossible task of getting dressed for public just two days postpartum. A couple of my girlfriends chipped in and purchased a gift card for me to buy comfortable and appropriate clothing for the NICU. I can’t stress enough how awesome it was to have a couple of pairs of cute sweatpants that I could feel comfortable wearing out in public. If there is one item that you are looking to gift to a NICU mom, I would encourage it to be this.
These three acts of kindness and many others made a difficult situation manageable. I will always be grateful for our family, friends, and strangers who helped us out in our time of need. Are you a NICU mom? If so what helped your family during your time of need, let me know in the comments below.