I was at 33 weeks when I went into labor with my 4th daughter, Sadie. I had been on bed rest but wasn’t dilated. I was listed as high risk after my many pre-term labors and complications. I went to the doctor the day before I went into labor and I wasn’t dilated at all. Everything was perfect! The next morning, I woke up feeling a little sick and headed to the hospital per my doctor’s orders. Come to find out, I was 3.5 cm dilated and contractions weren’t stopping.
A day later, at just 34 weeks, I welcomed Sadie Sara Grace, weighing 4lbs. 5oz. After delivery, I held her for literally 2 seconds before they immediately took her to the NICU. For 12 hours, I had no idea what was going on with my daughter, just procedure after procedure. They wouldn’t let my husband see her until about 10 hours after I delivered her. Finally, he was able to hold her, but I still hadn’t seen her since giving birth.
I immediately thought, “We’re not prepared for a preemie, not a NICU preemie.” I began to panic, as I didn’t know much of what was going on. Come to find out, she had some severe complications, went into shock and had to be revived for a few seconds after intubation. One of the many reasons I wasn’t able to hold her for 12 hours. After meeting with her team of doctors and nurses, I knew she would be in the best care, but I was still beyond freaking out to say the least. I remember reaching out to other moms that I knew had NICU babies, wondering how they got through it, wondering how I was going to get through it. The social media outpour of prayers was something I clearly remember, because they always made me feel better. Not to mention the fact that my baby was alive and eventually going to be just fine.
After 4 very long weeks in the NICU, we finally welcomed Sadie home with her little accessory — a heart monitor. However, we felt blessed she was able to be with us and fought through her journey. While I may be a pro when it comes to being a mom, I was not a pro at handling a preemie. I remember how hard leaving the hospital was without my baby. It is something that I can’t even explain. Holding back the tears every time I had to leave her behind was heart breaking. Knowing I had a baby but she was not with us, at home, like a new baby should be.
Here is what I wish I would have known when it comes to preparing for a preemie:
Don’t Stress Over the Cords 1 of 14It may be overwhelming to see cords, PICU lines, and a feeding tube - but, it is all helping your baby. Don't worry if everything alarms when you pick them up for the first times. It happens!
Back Your Bag Early 2 of 14It's one of the most important things when it comes to being prepared.
Get this diaper bag from Timi and Leslie
Have Faith, They Are In Good Hands 3 of 14You have to remind yourself, the hospital is the best place for a preemie. If you have any concern ever, always talk to someone. Especially if you aren't happy with your care. And remember, call to check on your baby anytime when you can't be at their side.
Research Your Hospital 4 of 14Make sure the hospital where you are delivering has a good NICU. Even if your baby is full term, this is still something you need to know to make sure your baby gets the best care.
Image via Hospital Corner Stone
Prepare the Nursery 5 of 14Make sure you do this ahead of time so if you go into labor way before your due date, you're prepared.
Image via Stokke
Preemie Baby Problems 6 of 14Read about common preemie problems. Apena, Respiratory distress, Jaundice...things you may become familiar with over time.
Read all about them on Parenting
Don’t Feel Guilty 7 of 14When you have to leave the hospital, it's okay to cry. Don't feel guilty to not be at the bed side 24/7. You need your rest too!
They May Have to Go Back 8 of 14Be prepared. As preemies, they catch things easily and may have to return to the NICU. But remember, it's the best place for them.
Make It or Break It Points 9 of 14Your preemie will need to meet goals. From breathing on his own to being able to maintain body temperature out of the incubator. Your baby will have steps it needs to meet before discharge. Being able to bottle-fed and gaining weight steadily is a must.
Be Prepared for Anything 10 of 14For any emergency once the baby is home. Take an Infant CPR class before your baby comes home. This may even be required for those with apnea monitors.
Have a Plan 11 of 14If you have other children, make sure you have a plan or schedule when it comes to visiting your baby in the NICU. Remember, your older children will remember when you aren't there. Don't feel guilty if you have to leave the baby.
Discharge Day 12 of 14You will feel a mixture of worry and joy. Remember, your team of doctors will not send a preemie home until they know the baby is ready.
Read about taking home your preemie on Kids Health
Finally Home 13 of 14Once you are home, expect to keep a calm and quiet environment. Preemies are susceptible because their immune systems are still developing. Don't plan on running errands with them just yet!
Read about having your preemie home on Kids Health
They Will Be Okay 14 of 14Sadie, now 1 year old, with no health issues at all!
Images thanks to Kim Flores of Whimsy Baby Photo
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