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Challenge: NICU Parenting

Luckier than most

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My son's NICU stay was for only 4 days, which is luckier than most that are admitted, but scary and emotional nonetheless.

It all started when I was 31 weeks pregnant with my first child and had a pre-term labor scare. I spent three days at Magee Woman's Hospital (and missed my baby shower, which I hear is very common) with round the clock monitoring and steroid injections to speed up my baby's developing lungs. The doctors and nurses were able to subside my contractions and keep me from going into labor. Five weeks later though I went into labor. I was terrified, fearing that my baby wasn't ready to be born and I wasn't ready to become a mother. Luckily, since I had had the scare at 31 weeks and received steroid injections, our little Henry had developed fine and was eager to meet his parents.

However, during the next few days Henry's bilirubin levels kept rising, he had trouble stabilizing his sugar and potassium, and he became dehydrated. In one day, he had lost 6% of his body weight, totaling 11% from birth. We were admitted to the NICU and remained there for 4 days. Nothing can prepare you to hear the cries from your baby while an IV is inserted into their arms and legs, which took over an hour to complete. Henry spent 2 days in his "tanning bed" and extra cool sunglasses for his jaundice, and received fluids for 3 days. Every 12 hours there was a blood draw and then waiting to hear the magic "you can go home" numbers. It took 4 days to receive numbers close enough to the magic number, which then meant several follow ups to the pediatrician to ensure no more fluctuation occurred.

Our NICU stay pales in comparison to so many others. We are so lucky to have had the outcome we received; but still, there is nothing more terrifying than being told there is something wrong with your baby and not knowing how the next day or hour will turn out. No matter what the "magic number" is and when it is reached, it is an amazing day when parents are told they can bring their miracle baby home.

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