Confessions of a NICU Mom

Confessions of a NICU Mom | Mama Papa Bubba

This post is sponsored by London Drugs.  With every Huggies Diaper purchase made by an LDExtras member between now and April 30th, 2018, a $2 donation will be made to the Huggies No Baby Unhugged program at Victoria General Hospital here in BC.  As always, my stories are my own and I truly do believe that the Huggies No Baby Unhugged program is a huge support to NICU parents across Canada.

Is there ever a point where you stop being a ‘NICU mom’?

I’m not sure there is.

Sure, they sign the discharge order and you exit those doors baby in arm, feeling this overwhelming sense of gratitude and freedom, but I’m not sure you ever shake the NICU experience.  It changes you.

Of course you can’t rewrite the past, but gosh – would it ever have been nice to know something – anything – about life behind the doors of neonatal intensive care unit {or prematurity for that matter} before it became our reality.

After world’s most routine pregnancy and delivery with Miss G, I was blissfully ignorant about what was to come 27 weeks into my pregnancy with Sam.  In some ways I do think my ignorance was a blessing, but I also know that the situation would have been less terrifying had we not gone in completely blind.

I honestly had no idea what to expect…  No idea what it would be like to be a NICU mom.  No idea what it would be like to be a mama to a preemie babe born before he’d even had a chance to make it to the third trimester.

So.  Looking back on it now 2 years later, here’s what I would say if someone asked me what it was like – truly like – to be a mama of a preemie babe in the NICU…

Confessions of a NICU Mom

I was terrified.  Initially that the NICU team wasn’t going to bring our baby back to the delivery room after whisking him away in a plastic bag.  Then that he might not make it through the set backs and out of the NICU. That we’d get a phone call from with terrible news in the middle night.  That he might not come back from one of his episodes of forgetting to breathe.  That he’d develop some crazy complication once we’d made it through the scariest part… Ah, and the list goes on.  I made a decision to enter the NICU each day and shower our little boy with love and positivity, but deep down inside I was terrified of losing him.

I felt like I had failed.  Truly.  As a mama, the one thing you’re supposed to be able to do is keep your baby safe and growing until they’re ready to be born, and when you can’t even do that?  It feels like you’ve failed your baby.  {And your husband, and your family, and everyone else who loves that little bub.}  Even when you know there was nothing you could have done to prevent preterm labour.  In my case, even though I knew there was nothing I could have done to prevent my appendix rupturing.  Your logical side understands that, but you feel responsible nonetheless and it’s awful.

Having to rely on donor milk added to the feelings of failure.  Beyond being able to carry them safely to term, the one thing us mamas are ‘supposed’ to be able to do is provide nourishment for babies, and when your body fails to be able to do either?  Ugh.  It’s crushing.  Besides my body not being ready, I was admitted to a different hospital shortly after Sam’s birth and didn’t get to see him at all for 14 days, my ruptured appendix went undetected for 15 days,  and in an attempt to try and stop the massive infection inside my body, I was put on 11 different antibiotics over a 31 day stint.  The odds were definitely against me, and despite pumping every 2 – 3 hours nearly around the clock, I produced next to no milk for a very long while.  Of course I was beyond grateful for the donor milk Sam was able to receive (mamas who donate breastmilk are my heroes!}, but I felt like a crap mom for not being able to provide it myself.

Confessions of a NICU Mom

I was exhausted.  Like beyond exhausted.  Between feeling near death for weeks, pumping around the clock, trying to give as much as I possibly could to Grae at home and Sam in the NICU, and the emotional toll of it all, I was so, so tired.  My eyes stung, my head hurt, and I felt like I hadn’t taken a full, proper breath in weeks.

There’s a lot of guilt.  Oh, the guilt.  It was suffocating at times. Beyond the not being able to carry or nurse your baby bit, for me there was this overwhelming sense of guilt that came with having two kiddos, both under different roofs.  When I was at the NICU with Sam, I felt guilty about not being at home to support and spend time with my girl who was having a tough time transitioning into Kindergarten, and when I was at home with Grae, I felt guilty for not being in the NICU with Sam to hold him, care for him, and comfort him through tests and blood draws.

Leaving our baby was heartbreaking.  Ugh…  One of the very hardest things about being a mama of a preemie babe who is in the NICU…  There’s the initial having to leave the hospital without your baby when you’re discharged which is devastating, and then there’s having to leave him there every. single. night. as you make your way home for some sleep.  Like at what point do you decide you’ve spent enough time with your newborn baby and that it’s now time to leave him? Thankfully we had the most amazing nurses at BC Women’s who’d often spend time holding him and loving on him, as well as volunteer ‘hugging’ program you could sign up for so your baby would have loving human touch and cuddles while you were away, but even so – it was hard.

Confessions of a NICU Mom

I cried a lot.  Oh god, was I ever a mess.  Not in front of others and definitely not in the NICU {well, with the exception of the very first time I got to hold Sam – Brad joked that I was going to drown our baby in tears when he already had plenty of breathing issues of his own}, but in the car by myself as I drove to and from {mostly from} the NICU in the dark?  I’m pretty sure I cried every single day for months.  And I don’t consider myself to be an overly emotional person.  Sometimes it was out of frustration, often it was just sadness and guilt and feeling completely overwhelmed, and I know the exhaustion didn’t help either.

I was sometimes jealous of other moms.  Terrible, I know…  Especially since we had a relatively ‘easy’ NICU journey compared to some and it truly does no good to compare, but seeing other mamas at the hospital with big, full-term bellies…  Mamas walking down to the car park with their 24 hour old babes in car seats…   Mamas coming into the NICU with their arms full of bottles of expressed milk…  Mamas with teeny nursing babies in their arms at the hospital coffee shop…  It was hard.  And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t envious sometimes.

Confessions of a NICU Mom

Despite it all, I’m incredibly thankful.  Thankful to be a NICU mom.  Thankful for amazing medical care.  Thankful for our nurses and doctors and specialists.  Thankful for the things we learned and the people we met along the way.  Thankful that it was just a season and that we made it through.  Thankful for coming out stronger.  Thankful for our Sam who is a healthy, growing, and thriving two year old who brings our family so much joy.  Thankful for it all.

Something else I’m thankful for?  Huggies’ No Baby Unhugged program to coming to more hospitals across Canada.  Because as a NICU mama, you truly need all the support you can get.   And while the reality is that you just can’t be in the NICU 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, knowing that your sweet baby can be held and hugged by Huggies’ No Baby Unhugged volunteers should that be what you want, would certainly be comforting.

Now here’s the good news…  If you buy disposable diapers, you can very easily help.  Between now and April 30th, 2018, London Drugs will make a $2 donation to the Huggies No Baby Unhugged program at Victoria General Hospital for every Huggies Diaper purchase made by an LDExtras member. How easy is that, right?  You can see all of the details here.

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5 thoughts on “Confessions of a NICU Mom

  1. I have been following you like since FOREVER, and it was very moving to hear you tell of your journey. Bravo for your honesty throughout, and hugs for all the pain and anguish you endured. I remeber my mom telling me about riding the bus 30 miles round trip to a nearby hospital several times a week so she could donate breast milk for a wee babe with food allergies – this was back in the 1940’s when I was a baby. Your story gave me a new found appreciation for what she did back then, and how much it must have meant to some mama.

    1. Oh my goodness… Sharon, that’s absolutely amazing. What a selfless, beautiful thing your mama did for a sweet baby and another mama. Nearly brings me to tears! <3

  2. I’m a Mama of a 20-year-old son who was a 26w4d preemie and spent 82 days in the NICU. Yup, you’re always a NICU mom. I was very fortunate that he had few complications and has no residual issues. You do get through it, *and* you’re forever changed. Blessings to you and your little (now big!) one. <3

  3. I came across your site while searching for a “bedtime routine” printable and clicked on the PREEMIE page………TEARS FOR DAYS!!!!! I am a NICU mom too (25 weeker) and EVERY SINGLE POINT you made resonated so deeply with me. I have never quite been able to put it into words, and yours were spot on. My daughter is now 4 and has sensory processing issues amongst others but we have been incredibly fortunate considering all the things that could have gone wrong. Thanks for reminding me there are others out there like me and that my feelings are totally normal!

  4. As a nursing student, I found this article about motherhood and the NICU to be quite moving. It’s always inspiring to read about the strength and resilience of parents in difficult situations. The author’s honesty and vulnerability in sharing her experiences as a NICU mom is both relatable and informative. It’s important for healthcare professionals to understand the emotional toll that these situations can have on families. This is why I was happy to see this site with essays about nursing, as it provides a great resource for those interested in the nursing profession. As a future nurse, I hope to be able to provide support and care for families going through difficult times like those described in the article. Overall, I think it’s crucial that we value and prioritize time spent with loved ones, as well as learning and promoting awareness on topics that affect our society.

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