No parent ever wishes for their child to spend time in the NICU, and yet it’s a place many parents call home for days, weeks, and even months. We were those parents.
After conceiving via IVF, I experienced a very high-risk pregnancy, during which I spent 16 weeks on bed rest at home and developed a total of 8 complications, from severe ovarian hyperstimulation and a large subchorionic hematoma to PPROM and preterm labor among others. After 15 days on strict bed rest in the hospital, my son flew into this world at 24 weeks and 5 days – far too early for this world but just late enough that he had a chance at surviving.
The NICU became our home, the nurses and neonatologists our friends, and this life of seeing our son in a plastic box every day became our new normal.
We watched him grow, thrive, and have setback after setback as his little body tried to figure out how to stay alive when he should have been swimming in my womb for so many more months. There were days filled with tears of frustration, fear, and helplessness..
But there were just as many days filled with tears of gratitude.
Gratitude for the companies that are innovating every day to create machines to keep babies like my son alive.
Gratitude for the medical staff who stay an extra hour or two because that last shift was so hard they know parents like us needed them to just hold our hand for a little while longer.
Gratitude for the beautiful harpist and the keyboard player who took away the clinical feel of an intensive care unit and brought relief to parents and babies with their soft, gentle music in the background.
Gratitude for our nurses and doctors who celebrated every single, tiny milestone with us, from his first poop (a really, really big deal!), to dropping settings on his ventilator, to being able to wear clothes for the first time.
It’s because of our time in the NICU that my husband and I learned how to change a diaper, how to bathe a baby, and how to trust our intuition (not the monitors) when it came to our son’s health.
It was in our NICU that my husband and I learned to be parents, speaking up when we disagreed with his medical care and showering him with our love, trusting that it was essential to helping him grow and thrive.
But most importantly, even five years after my son was born, we are immensely, deeply, and eternally grateful for the love that our medical team showed our son. They were our eyes when we couldn’t take seeing him in pain, our ears when we couldn’t hear one more piece of bad news, our steady hands when we felt too scared to touch him or hold him. They cradled him like their own when we couldn’t be there. They sang to him and talked to him and made sure he was never alone. They reminded us everyday that we were never alone on this journey.
There will never be enough words to truly express how grateful we are for our NICU. Thanks to our team in the NICU, we have a hilarious, mischievous, loving little boy at home who reminds us every single day that miracles do happen.