I’m healthy. I had a healthy pregnancy. I’ve never had high blood pressure.
Until my 34th week of pregnancy when my world was turned upside down with eclampsia.
My carefully planned home birth with a midwife went out the window as I was being air lifted to the nearest hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit.
A couple hours later my son was born via caesarean section. He was whisked away to NICU before I was coherent enough to see him.
Actually, not whisked away. I wasn’t coherent for over 24 hours after he was born. The seizures and magnesium drip had fried my brain and I have only a couple faint memories of that day. I wasn’t stable enough to enjoy skin-on-skin or to delay any cord clamping.
My brain needed to rest.
No delayed cord clamping. No bonding on my chest. No first attempts at nursing.
I remember waking up once and finding my husband pumping me like the nurse had showed him. He was a trooper and kept pumping me even when I wasn’t conscious!
After my brain stabilized I was moved to the maternity hall but I was still hooked up to a catheter.
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In order to see my own child I had to wait to be wheeled down to NICU. Then I had to scrub up to my elbows with harsh, drying antibacterial soap for three minutes. Then I had to wait for my son’s nurse to have time to come instruct me on how to touch, hold and care for my son. It was all so unnatural. I felt like I was in a dream.
The first time saw my son he was in a plastic, sterile isolette hooked up to monitors, wires and an IV in his head. A sweet nurse laid a pillow on my lap and set my son in my arms.
That’s all could do. I was so weak I just sat there not even able to lift his four-pound body up to kiss him.
A couple days later I gained back enough strength to change his diaper through the holes in the isolette.
After his first diaper change I was able to bottle feed him. Thankfully he eagerly took a bottle from the beginning and never needed a feeding tube. Holding my baby with all those wires, tubes and monitors was so intimidating. I felt so helpless as his mommy.
Over the next couple weeks I figured out a routine that worked for me and my son. The NICU nurses were wonderful in advising and helping me understand what was best for my son, as well.
What I did to make my preemie son’s NICU stay more natural.
I provided breast milk. Thankfully my wonderful husband helped me start pumping almost as soon as I was out of surgery. The little drops of colostrum that I produced he soaked up with a cotton swab and took down to NICU for the nurses to swab the inside of our son’s cheek. I continued pumping every three hours around the clock to get my milk flowing.
I continued taking my prenatals. Prior to and throughout my pregnancy I took whole foods vitamins from Standard Process. Also, I increased my cod liver oil and butter oil consumption to provide as much vitamin D and nourishing fats as I could in my breast milk.
I ate healthy. I ate a minimum of two eggs a day – usually more because hard boiled eggs make a great midnight snack! Desperate to establish a sufficient milk supply I also followed the old wives tale of eating oatmeal.
I kangarooed my son. Holding my son- skin on skin- for two hours at a time was another thing the nurses greatly encouraged. They told me it helps the baby regulate body temperature, boosts their immune system and hearing mom’s heart beat helps with bonding.
I did his “cares” when possible. My son was fed and changed every three hours. When I could I made sure to be the one changing his diaper, feeding him and burping him. It made for a nice transition into kangaroo time, also.
I rested. Recovering from major surgery, high blood pressure and strong pain killers wipes a person out! I quickly realized that if I didn’t take care of myself I would not be able to take care of my son.
When I was finally able to bring my son home, I wanted to make the transition as smooth as possible.
I kept the same feeding and changing schedule as he had in NICU and I also kept him clothed relatively similar as NICU to regulate his body temperature. He was already receiving breast milk so there was no change in formula.
Having a child in NICU is no walk in the park. But hopefully a few of these tips and ideas can make your NICU journey a bit easier.
Even though my son’s birth didn’t go anything like I had planned I’m so grateful that we are both safe and healthy!
Have you had a similar experience? How did you make it work for you and your family?