anchored in light

A lifestyle blog about finding light in every avenue of life

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Blessings of the NICU

We started off our parenting journey pretty rough. Everly needing to go to the NICU honestly wasn't even on my radar. Even though one of the main reasons that I wanted to have our baby in a hospital (yes, I toyed with the idea of home birth in my mind) was because I wanted that safety net of doctors and people on hand, I never thought that I would have to use it.

So when Everly went to the NICU there were a lot of things that I hated. Most of those things I went over in Everly's Birth Story post, but today I thought that I would detail some of the things that made our lives easier because Everly was in the NICU.

1. Both Brian and I got a decent amount of sleep since she was born.

Because you can't have the baby in your room, and it really isn't feasible to go to the NICU for every feeding through the night, we got at least a 5-6 hour stretch of sleep every night. The nurses don't even want you to come down to every feeding. They encourage you to skip at least one night feeding and sleep and recover.

2. Access to lactation specialists.

I was really worried about breastfeeding Everly since I didn't get the chance to spend that first hour with her. They emphasize how having them latch within that first hour helps lead to breastfeeding success and I didn't even see her the first hour of her life outside the womb. I also knew that generally, you can have a lactation specialist come to your hospital room and help you learn how to breastfeed, but I never had Everly in my room.

Down in the NICU there were several specialists that I was able to work with. They came by and made sure that we were learning how to breastfeed together. Not only that but they taught me about how to establish my milk supply. They told me that I needed to get a 4-6 hour stretch of sleep every night for best milk production, had me pump after every breastfeeding to establish my supply, and told me about how much I should be aiming for in order to have enough throughout our breastfeeding in the months to come. I would have had no idea about any of this if I hadn't been in the NICU. I probably would hardly have pumped at all if I had just had her and started nursing from the beginning.

3. She always knew how to take a bottle. From anyone.

Because I couldn't feed her those first few days, between me being sick and not having my milk come in yet, Brian fed her a lot and so did the nurses. In fact, pretty much the whole time she was in the hospital I would breastfeed her and then they would give her a bottle while I pumped. I generally only fed her from one side because the only way to check and see if she was making her goal of what she had to drink every day was by weighing her before and after I fed her, which wasn't completely accurate. I wanted to be sure she was "getting credit" for what she had to drink, so I fed her and then let her take the rest from a bottle.

Because of this, I've always been able to leave her with Brian or my mom or anyone I trust if I want/need to go somewhere. She's been fine to take a bottle from any of them and she'll still take a bottle from me (which I heard can be hard because they would rather breastfeed).

4. I learned how to leave her.

I'll admit, this was maybe the roughest way to learn how to leave your baby behind. It was hard to be separated from her from the very beginning. However, because of this rough start, I was able to leave her with other people. Brian offered to let me have one night a week for self-care (I HIGHLY recommend this) to do whatever I wanted and get out of the house. Since I'd already had the practice leaving Everly for several hours at a time, it was no big deal for me to leave her with Brian while I went out with friends, or with my Mom, while I went to the dentist. Both because I had to leave her and because of the nurses encouraging me to rest and recover, I was able to let her be taken care of by other people, so I can take care of myself. It also has made it so that if I wanted to leave her with someone so that Brian and I could go have a date night, I've been fine to do that.

5. I learned how to accept help.

When she was born and they took her away, it was out of my hands. I didn't even get the chance to ask for help. She was in the NICU and I couldn't walk. I needed help just to see her. People had to bring us meals. Brian had to help me get in and out of bed and help to get to the bathroom.

I lost a lot of pride when Everly was taken to the NICU, but in a good way. I learned that letting people serve you sometimes does as much for them as it does for you.

6. Everly learned how to sleep through sounds and how to sleep on her own.

A lot of people gave me advice to vacuum near the baby. I think I would have been a little afraid to do something like that if I'd just taken her home right away, but because she was in the NICU I knew that she could sleep through a lot. I'd been there when people were coming in and out and alarms were going off and people were talking. She was able to sleep through all of that. So I knew that she could sleep through it. In fact, the day that she came home, we moved her bed (while she was sleeping in it) and hammered in some nails on the wall above it. She slept through it anyway. In fact, when people came over to visit and she was sleeping, I had to encourage them NOT to whisper.

Also, I knew that she could fall asleep on her own. She didn't need to be held or rocked or any of that to fall asleep. All she needed was to be swaddled and laid down. When she came home she was held so much that she started to believe that she couldn't fall asleep without being held so I had to retrain her a bit, but I'm sure it was nowhere near as hard as it would have been if I hadn't already known she was capable of doing it.

7. The NICU tribe.

It's a club. One you never want to join, but it has some of the most amazing and kindest people in it. Everyone is rooting for each other to succeed and we all hope that we never see each other again (or at least until the reunions they have once a year) because that means that their baby is out of the NICU.

There are so many hard things about having a baby in the NICU and all things considered, we are very lucky that she wasn't sicker and didn't have to stay there longer than a week (even though it felt like a month). I'm grateful for all the nurses and doctors in the NICU that are capable of keeping sick and tiny babies alive and I pray that I never have to go back there again, but I am grateful for the good things it gave us.

Thank you so much for reading! What blessings have you seen from a hard experience?
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