Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Prior to our first visit with our daughter, a nurse met with me. She asked “do you know what it means to be premature?” I told her yes—it meant that she was tiny, and underdeveloped, and that she wasn’t strong and able like other babies. She looked relieved.
Nothing prepared me for my first visit to the NICU. It is a stark place—sterile, cold, busy, methodical, beeping…nothing like the warm, loving environment one envisions when seeing their new baby for the first time. We passed other parents at their babies’ bedsides, no one meeting our stare—and no one happy. Our daughter was in the fetal position, looking like a tiny little bug, with a little hat on and a preemie diaper that swallowed her, in a bright plastic enclosure. She was covered in tubes. My heart sank. I thought there was no way she was going to make it. I was afraid to name her. She was Handy, Girl for 2 days. She weighed 3 lbs, 5 oz, and if I had cupped my hand over her back, it would have covered her.
Those next two days were devastating. Every time you enter the NICU, you feel like it could be the worst moment of your life. Everyone can care for your baby but you. It is hopelessly depressing, especially in the beginning. Jason was very encouraging. He would stay close to me, smile at me, smile at our baby. I felt like the only way I could help her was to use my breast pump—which I did—but she wasn’t able to use the milk. I felt extremely useless, and blamed myself for my baby’s condition.
Lucky for me, I snapped out of it after those 2 days. We started Kangaroo Care, where you hold your baby against your skin, and that made me feel important. I decided that while I may not be a nurse or doctor, I am her ONLY mother—and that my job was to love her like a mother should, and no one else could do that. It gave me a sense of purpose, a source of strength, and a renewed sense of energy. We named her Elena Renee.
Elena remained in the NICU proper for 2 weeks. I stayed at the hospital during the day (I work in another wing, so I’d walk around between NICU visits and pumping), and my husband would come visit after he got off work. We learned how to change her diaper, monitor her progress, how to hold her and change her dressings. We learned how to watch her instead of the monitors when the alarms went off. When she started receiving nutrition (through a nasal tube), we’d follow how much she ate. She had 2 rounds of indomethicin to close her PDA, and had light therapy for jaundice. Overall she seemed to be doing well.

No comments: