Please tell us about your NICU experience  

At 29 weeks, I had a complete concealed placenta abruption. I had an emergency c-section via general anesthesia. My daughter’s Apgar scores were 1, 1,5 (I believe-the first 1 is for sure).  My daughter was born at 2’14 15 inches long and spent 82 days in the NICU.

What was the hardest part about your NICU stay? 

No one to relate to, having to work, having to leave my daughter in someone else care, the uncertainty of her future, the lack of control and input over her care, having another child at home.

How did you care for your mental health while your baby was in NICU?  

I didn’t. But once my daughter was discharged and I no longer had the excuse that I had a baby in the NICU I realized I was different, when I started to get panic attacks while at work, I then started to see a therapist. I learned I had PTSD from the experience. 

Do you feel like you had all of the resources that you needed both while your baby was in the NICU and after discharged?

For my baby yes but for me and my husband No and no-the NICU experience only centers on the baby and not the parents and I understand it but I think that there needs to be more attention given to the caregivers. 

 Do you believe that your NICU experience has had an effect on the way that you are raising your preemie and subsequent children? 

 Absolutely. It changed me to the core. I have changed careers and see life in a completely differently view.

What advice would you give to parents who currently have a child in the NICU? 

It is hard, it is a secret society, but you will get stronger-so much stronger-from the experience, your child will become your hero and your inspiration for fighting hard. You may identify yourself when you meet new people as a parent of a preemie and that is okay, I have met men who have grown children who identify in this way. Don’t go looking for the person you were before-that person is now evolving-in a powerful way that may be hard to see through the haze of the NICU but that powerful stronger version of you will emerge.

Is there anything else that you would like to share?  

 I left a successful career in luxury retail and went back to school to get my masters in social work-this decision was directly made because of my experience with having a child premature and my time in the NICU. The hospital social workers were great but did not once address mine, or any of the other parents, mental health. Maternal mental health needs to be made a priority in this country and it falls on the back burner, an afterthought, a reactive response to the Edinburgh score or signs reminiscent of PPD or PPA.  The experience also brought my attention to paid parental leave-rather the lack there of-in this country. I also learned that my skin color probably saved my life and that is disgusting. Healthcare should not be determined by the color of your skin and the racial disparities in health care-specifically for mothers and babies-needs immediate attention. 

Another thing to share is I refuse to let the experience stop me or cripple me in fear. My husband and I wanted more children, we have had 2 more children since. I knew that if we had to go through a similar experience-although it would be hard- we would get through it. 

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