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Challenge: NICU Parenting

Just when you thought the NICU journey was over..

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My first pregnancy was anything but uncomplicated. At 32 weeks, my preeclampsia was slowly turning toward eclampsia, so I was given magnesium and taken for an emergency c section. My daughter was born at 32 weeks 5 days weighing in at 3lbs 14oz. She was perfect and her NICU journey was 5 weeks long, but very typical and any complication or setback she had was expected and normal. When we finally were discharged and took our little girl home, we thought for sure that those days were so far behind us. 12 months later, we were blessed to be pregnant again. This second pregnancy was so different, it was uncomplicated, I never developed preeclampsia. At 37 weeks, I was taken in for a scheduled c section, it was a relaxed morning and surgery went well. My sons first cry was music to my ears, he was brought over to me and then promptly taken, along with my husband for all of the normal newborn assessments. In recovery, I was reassured that my baby would be brought in to me soon. More time passed and finally the nurse came in and said that my son needed some oxygen to help with his low oxygen and rapid breathing. After a few hours, they said he needed an oxygen hood and by the end of the night, the pediatrician came in to tell me that my baby would be rushed to the NICU, which was an hour away from me. My husband had gone home to be with my daughter and I was alone. It was heart breaking. That night was so long and miserable. The next morning I convinced my doctor to release me. So after being released, my husband and I headed to the NICU to be with our son. We never imagined doing the extensive handwashing and we never thought we’d be viewing our second child through an incubator. He seemed so healthy, was only on oxygen via nasal cannula. They had given him surfactant to help to expand his lungs. It helped initially, but after two days, his health declined. Breathing was hard and after a repeat X-ray, a pneumothorax was discovered. They tried a small procedure with a needle to help his lung, it was unsuccessful, so he then had a chest tube placed. My husband and I, along with the doctors expected him to start to get better. He did not. A day later, he was put on a ventilator. By this time, nobody would reassure us that our son would be ok. He developed pulmonary hypertension and was still not getting better. We were told that some babies get better and others just don’t. He was switched to an oscillator, a different type of ventilator. After nearly a week, he started to improve. He was taken straight from a ventilator to room air after a few days of improvements. And just like that, he was better, breastfeeding and ready to come home. Those 11 days were the absolute hardest and longest days of my life. My daughters journey was long, but typical. My sons journey was unexpected, unpredictable and a parents worst nightmare. Both of my children are now happy, healthy and you’d never know that either of them fought incredible journeys to be here today. I now consider myself blessed to have witnessed my children’s strength from the very beginning. It changes you as a parent and person. My children don’t even realize that they’ve taught myself and my husband the meaning of life, but they most certantly have. I wouldn’t trade the long and scary NICU days and nights for anything.

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