Not all birth experiences go as planned and sometimes they can REALLY veer off the pre-planned course. Here are 8 things all pregnant moms should know about the NICU.
by Allie Edwards | guest writer for The Snap Mom
Before getting pregnant, my husband and I knew we wanted one thing: natural birth. I knew being able to labor and deliver vaginally with no medication would give me the “there’s nothing in this world I can’t do” feeling, and I wanted it. After finding out we were pregnant, we started our care with Rosemary Birthing Home here in Sarasota and were on our way to the natural homebirth we wanted.
After 41 hours of laboring naturally at home and failing to dilate past 5 cm, we made the call we never thought we’d have to make…we transported to Bayfront Hospital. After an epidural, pitocin, 7 more hours of labor, we still made no progress on dilation.
After an emergency c-section, we finally met our sweet girl. Forty-eight hours into labor (to the minute!), she was pulled out screaming and healthy. We were trying to wrap our minds around what had happened thinking the worst was over, but when they did her labs the next morning we got hit with the unthinkable: they were transporting her to the NICU at All Children’s.
This journey taught me one thing when it comes to pregnancy: be prepared for anything. I did all the right things when pregnant. I ate right, exercised, and had zero risk factors. No matter how your pregnancy “looks” or you think it’s going to go down, you could find yourself in similar shoes. If that happens, here are a few things you can expect and tips I learned along the way…
1. Labor can be Romantic.
I know this sounds crazy, but it’s true. While laboring, my husband was dialed in to me in the most intimate way possible. We swayed, rocked, breathed, and labored through the most physically demanding moments of my life together. No, things didn’t end like we planned, but when I look around the corners of my home, I see the moments I was able to conquer. I could only conquer those because my husband was with me, loving me through it all.
2. Have a Written Birth Plan
I can’t tell you how many times we were told how important having a written birth plan was in case of emergency. Did we listen to this advice? Absolutely not. Thankfully my midwife was able to act in a doula capacity at the hospital, and my husband has years of medical experience, so we were able to articulate what we wanted clearly. However, having a written plan for them to review would have saved us some frustration from having to explain ourselves and what we wanted multiple times.
3. Not all Doctors/Nurses are Supportive of Home Birth
This is a pretty well known fact. At Rosemary Birthing Home, they are all about educating parents so they can make informed decisions and feel confident in the choices they make. We knew so much so we weren’t afraid to question things and challenge them with our knowledge. Don’t be surprised if you run into doctors or nurses who aren’t a fan of this.
4. NICU Protocol is Extensive
From spinal taps to contrast enema x-rays to heart echoes, it seemed never ending. Shortly after being admitted, I got a phone call from my cousin whose daughter went through the same 7 day antibiotic treatment in the NICU after birth. Her daughter got every single test and treatment mine did. After talking to her and a few other family friends, I quickly learned these tests were standard protocol. The hospital wants to be as thorough as possible. In my case, my daughter had a stress-induced infection that antibiotics cut real quick, but once you are on the multiple-day treatment you have to finish it before being released.
5. Progression followed by Digression is Normal
My daughter had a suction tube due to her spitting up stomach bile. This made us unable to nurse. She hated that tube so much. We were so ecstatic when they decided to remove the tube only to be emotionally distraught when they had to put it back in 22 hours later due to more spit up. The saying of “one step forward, two steps back” is a valid one in the NICU. Continual progress takes time to level out.
6. The most Vital thing for your Baby is YOU
NICU staff is all about kangaroo care (skin to skin) to help your baby. As soon as I put my daughter skin to skin with me, her vitals shot up every single time. We made it a priority to be there when our nurses’ shifts changed so we got as much kangaroo care in as possible. When we couldn’t do kangaroo care, we got involved with taking her temperature, changing her diaper, and helping swaddle her. The little things helped us bond even more.
7. There is ALWAYS Something to be Thankful for
Anyone that’s been in a NICU can tell you it’s a heavy environment. Every time we walked in to be with our daughter, we would both sob. Seeing our daughter hooked up to machines broke us. It wasn’t until the third day that we started to look around and realize we had something to be thankful for, we were able to hold our baby girl when most other parents couldn’t even touch their child.
8. Double Check Hospital Bills vs Insurance Claims.
As tired as you may be by the time your family makes it home, take the time to do your due diligence before sending anyone money. I cross-checked what the hospitals said I owed to the claims my health insurance showed and found thousands of dollars in errors. Call your insurance company to confirm when payments were sent before calling the hospital. The more detailed information you provide them, the faster they will get it fixed.
Although our birth story didn’t unfold the way I expected it to, the one thing I can see consistently through it all is the way God was intricately woven in it. From the nurses who cared for me and my daughter, to the hundreds of people praying for her across the entire country, He never left our side.
“I have made you, I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. “ Isaiah 46:4