The first day is a blur.
All kinds of doctors are running all kinds of tests, doing procedures and telling you all about it. You meet doctors, nurses, specialists, social workers, etc. They'll hit you with all kind of medical terms and information, it makes your head spin, and puts your stomach in knots. Write down your questions, because it's easy to forget when there is so much going on. There is nothing anyone can really say to quite prepare you for seeing your baby in there.
You will feel guilty.
Even though you tried your hardest and wanted your baby to bake as long as possible, to be healthy, and you had doctors making the calls, there will come a feeling of guilt. A little voice whispers in your ear that you did something wrong. That there is something wrong with your body that it couldn't hold on to your baby longer. Try to remember that this is not your fault.
You will feel torn in two.
When you have a child, or children, at home and one in the hospital you feel like your heart gets ripped in half. You feel guilty no matter where you are because your babies need you, and you can't be in two places at once. People will tell you either your baby is in good hands and your other child needs you, or that the other child won't remember and your baby needs you, depending on which one you're with. They will say whatever they think you need to hear at that particular moment, but the truth is, it doesn't help. You feel like a bad mom no matter where you are.
The night you are discharged is excruciatingly painful.
Going home without my baby has by far been the worst feeling I've ever experienced. Your body is there, but a huge piece of your heart is missing. The night I was discharged I stayed strong until I got my son to bed, then I collapsed on the couch and sobbed. I cried harder than I've ever cried in my life. I just wanted my baby. You constantly worry about how your baby is doing, and feel terrible that your missing moments. There is nothing I can tell you that will fully prepare you for that feeling. Take a blanket with you every time you visit, place it on your little one or near them. Take it home with you when you leave, you can at least have their smell with you.
Not being able to hold your baby hurts.
It seems like a weird concept, but your arms literally ache to hold your baby. Sitting there with your hand on their head and feet only does so much. You want to hold and snuggle them. It's like your body knows that that is what should be happening, and so it doesn't feel right when you can't hold them. It's like restless leg syndrome, but in your arms. When they weigh the baby ask if you can put them on the scale, it's almost like getting to hold them.
Taking a backseat in your child's life is hard.
Having someone else take care of my baby wasn't easy. They were allowed and able to touch and handle her in a way I ached to. Obviously they are doing their job, but having more and more doctors and nurses touching her, at times, just felt like one more person coming between me and my baby. It's hard to find your role as mommy when you don't feel like there is anything you can do medically to help your little one. I had to tell myself that there's a comfort l could give her. Taking over her care once we got home, making the decisions for her health, is still a lesson I am learning.
The smallest things feel huge accomplishments.
Every time the numbers on the ventilator went down, every time a wire was taken off, every time a tube was taken out or even moved, when IVs are taken out or when they take I was so proud. I felt on top of the world. It would probably seem like such a small thing when she opened her eyes while I was doing her cares one day, but it was indescribably good for my heart. It's hard not to become fixated on these small details, and that can drive you crazy. It puts you on a roller coaster of emotion as stats go up and down. I would spend so much of my time staring at her monitors, watching her levels. the first time her oxygen levels reached 100% on her own, I cried.
You find your groove and learn to love things about the NICU.
Scrubbing in becomes second nature, and becomes a habit that you take home with you, as well as using hand sanitizer. After a few days I knew my way around, and felt much more confidant in my routine there. Our NICU was a quite, warm place with dim lights in the rooms, which made for the perfect napping spot. I came to love my afternoon naps with Tatum. The nurses become your favorite people. You see them more than anyone else, and you develop a love for them. We definitely had our favorites, one in particular that we shed tears with on our way out the doors when we left. I came to love the smell in the NICU, since it was one place that didn't smell like hospital, but like babies.
The day you get to take your baby home you are on cloud nine. They make extra sure that your baby will just fine at home, and all the extra tests and checks just seem tedious when you are so ready to just grab your baby and make a run for it. Then when you get home, you are in charge of setting boundaries and making the decisions for your baby. It can be intimidating. I still have a hard time letting Tatum be around sick people, she catches everything and with her weak lungs she has a really hard time with even the simplest of colds. I also have a hard time taking her around people when there's even a possibilty of her being sick and spreading her germs, which tends to keep us kind of isolated. I still haven't found the perfect balance.
The scars from Tatum's ivs, wires, lines and chest tube are all virtually non-existent. I wish I could say the same for my heart. I'm sure those eventually fade as well, they may just take a little longer.