Can you tell us about your NICU experience? 

I had Leyah at 27 weeks + 6 days via emergency C – Section, she weighed 1 lb 5 oz.  This was my 2nd high risk pregnancy, and of course I did not anticipate it ending this way.  Even though this was the scariest experience of our lives, from the very start, my hospital/NICU took perfect care of us.  It was overwhelming pretty much all the time, but after choosing our primary nurses, knowing that they loved and cared for Leyah and were my voice when I couldn’t be there made us feel at as ease as we could be in this situation.  My husband and I were very fortunate to be able to be there almost every day of Leyah’s 161 day stay.  

What was the hardest part about your NICU stay?  Did you learn anything about yourself?  Your family? 

The hardest part for me was the lack of control I had and realizing just how long of a process this would be.  Seeing my baby in any kind of pain or discomfort and not being able to comfort her was a pain in my heart I have never felt before.  This experience has taught me to find my voice when advocating for my children.  If there was anything I was skeptical about or didn’t understand, I was constantly asking questions and being a part of Leyah’s care team.  As one of my favorite primary nurses told me, “You’re the captain of the ship.” And it made me feel empowered to ensure that my baby was getting the best care possible. This experience also showed me how strong my village is.  Everyone rallied around us from the second we told everyone I had to have the baby early.  Childcare for our oldest daughter was taken care of, we didn’t have to worry about meals family and friends were sending us DoorDash and Uber Eats or dropping off food.  We are extremely fortunate to have the village we have.

How would you describe the period immediately after your daughter was discharged from the NICU?   

 Relief, disbelief, fear, worry, love, joy. Our discharge date kept getting pushed back for like 2 weeks, so when I finally got the call that we could come get her I just broke down.  I was sitting next to my father and immediately just cried out loud and he just held me.  Even as we were packing her up and loading her into the stroller, I just kept waiting for them to tell me that she had to stay.  We were in the NICU for 161 days and at times it felt like there was never going to be a light at the end of the tunnel, but walking out of those hospital doors with our baby felt like we literally walked into the light. 

How did your older daughter adjust to having her sister in the NICU? 

 Our oldest daughter, Logan, is 5 years old.  So, all she understood was that her baby sister was sick and needed to stay in the hospital to get better.   She handled it very well.  There were times where she cried asking why can’t her sister come home, but we just kept telling her that she has to grow stronger before we can bring her home.  One day we were at the park and she made some friends on the jungle gym, I heard her say “My name is Logan and I’m 5 years old.  I have a baby sister but she’s in the hospital right now.” I was mortified but also very proud at the same time. I think she comprehended the situation as best as a 5-year-old could. 

How was it learning how to care for your daughter’s gtube?   Do you have any tips to share to make this transition easier for other families?  

Learning how to care for the g-tube was very intimidating at first.  I did not want her to come home with a tube. But after learning how to clean the site and use the pump, it has become second nature now, this is just how our baby has to eat for the time being. My advice for other families is finding your routine helps to make caring for the tube become just a part of your everyday with the baby.  For instance, every morning after Leyah wakes up, I wash her face, change her diaper, wash my hands and clean/dry the stoma site.  It may see scary like it will hurt your baby I promise you, it’s not.  And trust your instincts, if something doesn’t seem right, call your doctor! 

How do you balance caring for your children, being a wife, managing a household and practicing self-care?   

To be honest, it’s definitely unbalanced, at least for right now. AND THAT IS OKAY! It’s a learning experience every single day. There are some days where I feel overwhelmed and need more help, and then there are other days where I feel like I got stuff done and feel like a boss.  I don’t want new moms to feel like they have to have it all figured out, because literally no one does!  As for self-care, I wish I could say I go get massages or have spa-days but really, I just like to bake. It soothes me.  It’s important that new moms know that self-care doesn’t have to be some extravagant spa-day or shopping spree.  It’s about doing something for yourself, even if it is just soaking in the bath a little longer, baking cookies, binging your fave show, doing your nails or taking a nap. 

Is there anything else that you would like to share?

 NICU Moms – YOU ARE NOT ALONE! I know this experience is terrifying and can feel isolating, but just know that you have a sisterhood behind you, women (and men) who have been where you are and have seen the light at the end of the tunnel.  

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