The NICU was not part of our birth plan. I mean really, who includes that? Sure, I know people who've had kids in the NICU. Actually, 11 years ago, my best friend gave birth to a 24 weeker so I'd even seen a micropreemie. But I wasn't going to have a preemie. There would be no need for a NICU.
However, my body had other plans. I was admitted to the hospital at 25+1 due to high blood pressure. I was terrified, but ready to do all I could to keep this little baby inside of me as long as possible. Even if it meant bedrest (which, for a person like me, sounded awful). And since she was measuring small, I needed to just eat to help give her a fighting chance.
We made it 6 days before my preeclampsia turned severe and my liver enzymes tripled. Things changed quickly. Our plan at the beginning of the week was to keep baby girl inside of me as long as possible to allow her to grow. And at 26 weeks, we had to change plans and get her out immediately to save us both.
I learned later I had HELLP Syndrome. I had never heard of this before and I'm very grateful I did not understand the severity of it in the moment, and I actually waited weeks before I looked it up. Now I understand the fact that both of us survived is amazing.
Amelia made her entrance on August 3, 2017 weighing 1lb 1oz and so begin our journey in the NICU. Because of how sick I was, I could not even get out of bed to see her until 26 hours after she was born. This situation forced me to rely on people I'd never met. The doctors and nurses down the hall had to take care of my baby because, not only was I unable to care for her due to my condition, I was also not qualified to care for the fragile life lying in the isolette.
People say the NICU journey is a rollercoaster. We've found that to be an accurate description. The ups and downs are things I'd never wish on anyone -- but they also have made me feel slightly isolated. Because these nurses are by my side each day, I've grown close to them and they've witnessed plenty of meltdowns. We spend day in and day out together, rooting for Amelia.
As of today, we've spent 109 days in the NICU, and our stay will continue a while longer. It's the same amount of days I've had to say good bye to my little girl. I've read many stories about moms in the NICU who have chosen to not leave their baby's side. For many weeks, I was overwhelmed with guilt because I went home. I felt like a terrible mother. I'm thankful her doctors and nurses helped me understand how sick I was and encouraged me to take care of myself so I would be ready to take care of her.
So I've prayed daily for God to help me trust these people. These women whom I'd never met before, but who care for my daughter daily. I know this is their job, but I also know it's so much more. They love our little girl too. They check in on her on days they are caring for another baby. They pray for her. These nurses and doctors are invested in her life and it shows.
The saying goes that it takes a village to raise a child. Ours just happens to be a NICU village right now. Some day it'll be family and friends, but for now, our village dresses in scrubs. They have become friends and feel like family. I never imagined this would be our life, but now that it is, I'm grateful. We'll continue to root for Amelia together and continue to help her grow and push her to our finish line, coming home.