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Challenge: NICU Parenting

A surprise NICU stay

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After an uneventful pregnancy that we thought was just about full term (37+5, or so we thought), Scarlet arrived quite quickly on what would have been her great grandfather's 100th birthday. She was 6lbs and 17" long, small, but nothing unusual, although my OB expected an 8+lb baby based on me and my husband's height and size.

The first day, all went well. Day two, we were soaking up every snuggle as we prepared to go home the next morning. My nurse came in to give Scarlet a sponge bath. After she was squeaky clean, she handed her to me to try to nurse her. As soon as she latched on, Scarlet turned gray and stopped breathing. My nurse whisked her away to the nursery and soon after, up to the NICU, where they had to vigorous stimulate her to get her to come back. That Sunday night began our 26-day long NICU stay.

After being assessed in the NICU, it was clear to our team of doctors and nurses that my due date was off and Scarlet was somewhere between 35-36 weeks. She had not developed suck/swallow/breathe and was having spells during feeds, spells while crying, and most concerning to our team, spells at rest. During her first 24 hours in the NICU, she had 36 spells, all of which she had to be vigorously stimulated to come back. The next day, she had a 24-hour EEG of her brain to be sure she was not have seizures during these spells. After this came back clean, she had a spinal tap to be sure she didn't have meningitis or another serious infection. Thankfully this and all other tests came back clean, and we knew it was just a waiting game. Waiting for her to figure out how to suck/swallow/breathe on her own. She was put on caffeine, which helped stimulate her brain, but she was still having spells, bradies and desats the first two days. We kept her on the caffeine and by day three, she was doing much better. After the caffeine drip was stopped, we had to wait five days for it to completely exit her system. Then it was the countdown of three days in a row without any spells, bradies, or desats.

Every NICU parents understand that endless countdown...after two days, you think you're headed home, and then another spell...Finally, on Good Friday, after passing her car seat test and going three full days, Scarlet came home. Twenty-six days is nothing compared to what so many parents go through, but for us, it was the longest, most difficult 26 days of our lives.

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