By TMoM Team Member Britney Dent
They say the early bird catches the worm…That quote is to be encouraging but what about the early kid? The early baby? All three of my children were born early and it didn’t seem like prized timing. It was scary! Especially the first time…
It was 2009 and I was pregnant! I went through a whirl of emotions as I was a college student engaged to a travel IT Engineer and I was living miles from “home”. Now, I always wanted children and I’ve always gotten things done earlier than most. I was born prematurely in the eighties. I learned to read books before most children. Additionally, I was constantly the youngest in the room at jobs, conferences, and events. My dad instilled in me from an early age the importance of being early. “To be early is to be on time. To be on time is to be late. And to be late is ridiculous.”
All three of my children inadvertently got that memo in the womb and took the message to heart. My oldest was born 3 months early and my other two children were born 2 months early.
While pregnant with my oldest I suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum. I vomited so much that I lost weight instead of gaining weight. I had a c-section at 28 weeks pregnant. My daughter weighed 2 lbs. & 9 oz. My daughter spent time in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) but eventually came home and is now a healthy and thriving teenager. Her NICU stay was unexpected and as new parents, my husband and I had no idea what to expect. She experienced weight loss and jaundice. She had all the tubes and machines that beep constantly. We tracked her poop and “feeds” and did “kangaroo” and “skin to skin”. The NICU staff was amazing and the hospital was extremely accommodating providing activities, events, supplies, privacy, updates, and even an “angel eyes” camera for us to see our daughter when we weren’t at the hospital. I left the hospital with carts and carts of breast milk I pumped and a weird amount of hospital socks and pink bins.
11 Months Later
After settling in at home with my husband and first-born, I got into the swing of things and began to enjoy motherhood, though my journey began much earlier than I had expected. It didn’t take long to conceive my second daughter. My second pregnancy was similar to the first, but I knew about the nausea hacks and tricks and felt more confident the second time around. I developed preeclampsia but I felt confident to follow all the instructions to be as safe and healthy as possible. I thought for sure, I’d carry this child full term. Think again! My daughter made her debut at just 30 weeks and spent time in the NICU as well. She weighed 2 lbs. & 14 oz.
But It’s a Boy!
Finally, 7 years later we were expecting a baby boy. We prayed specifically for a healthy baby boy. The pregnancy was much easier than the other two though there were a few complications and scares. Our son would not be outdone by his sisters so he came early too. He weighed 3 lbs. 1 oz. He stayed in the NICU for exactly 5 weeks. He came home on my late grandmother’s birthday… a day I will never forget. My children are such a joy and are thriving and excelling. Even if you have pregnancy complications or scary emergency c-sections and have to live the sleep-deprived NICU visiting life; it’s worth it!
Advice for Navigating NICU Life
- Self-Care is Crucial
While your baby is receiving medical attention, it’s essential to take care of yourself too. This could mean different things for different people—getting enough sleep, eating well, taking breaks to recharge emotionally, seeking support from friends or a counselor, or even finding moments for relaxation. It might seem counterintuitive to focus on yourself, but by ensuring your own well-being, you’ll be better equipped to support your baby through this tough time.
- Stay Informed and Ask Questions
The NICU environment can be overwhelming with medical jargon and equipment. Don’t hesitate to ask the healthcare team questions about your baby’s condition, the treatments being given, and what to expect. Understanding your baby’s situation can help alleviate some anxiety and make you feel more involved in their care. Take notes if it helps you remember important information.
- Build a Support System
You don’t have to go through this alone. Reach out to friends, family, or even support groups for parents in similar situations. Having people to talk to who understand what you’re going through can be incredibly comforting. Additionally, involving loved ones can also help with practical matters like meals, household chores, or providing emotional support.
Remember, this is a challenging time, and it’s okay to feel a wide range of emotions. Take things one step at a time and be gentle with yourself. Your baby is in good hands in the NICU, and while it might be tough, this time will pass, and you’ll soon bring your little one home.