You know you’re a parent of a NICU Graduate if:

At just over seven months old, we are finally celebrating August being home longer than he was in the hospital! For Matt and I it is very significant that his life at home has FINALLY surpassed his life in the hospital. Thankfully we have settled in well, August is thriving, and we sometime don’t even remember the difficult time in the hospital. Though at times it feels good to put our experience behind us, other times I find myself feeling guilty about “forgetting” about it. It was such a significant part of our lives, good or bad, and I feel it should always be honored. Writing about our experiences in hopes of helping other NICU parents is a way for me to continue my mental recovery. And why not start with something lighthearted to celebrate our recent milestone.

You know you’re a parent of a NICU Graduate if:

  • You turn on the garbage disposal to get your baby to fall asleep. Yes, they are crying because it’s too quite.
  • You don’t mind being “house bound” since you’ve been in the hospital for days/weeks/months and almost forgot what your couch feels like.

  • The first time a stranger in the doctor’s office waiting room asks how old your baby is you lie, and tell them “he came home this week.” You don’t want to get into a long story when you they tell them he’s actually 4 months old and they comment about how small he is.
  • You secretly smile when you catch said stranger checking out your lack of still looking pregnant (I can only say this because I’ve been through alot… I would still trade a terrible 40+ week pregnancy for what Auggie went through.)
  • You think the advice to “sleep when your baby sleeps” is ridiculous… who’s going to make sure he’s still breathing?!
  • You position your baby to breastfeed being careful of the phantom cords and leads that you think are still attached.
  • You don’t even flinch when your baby gets their first vaccine in a doctor’s office, you’ve seen them endure much worse and already know they are a total champ.
  • You give props to moms who take care of a newborn WHILE recovering from a delivery or section. All moms should get at least two weeks to recover before having to do anything but breastfeed a baby.
  • You re watch Grey’s Anatomy and realize how terribly they portrayed a NICU.
  • After being brave enough to bring your baby out in public, you can’t believe how many people you lied to in one outing, about his age. You’re not ready for all the questions yet.

  • You keep double checking that your hospital bracelet is still on each time you wash your hands, which is about 24 times a day.
  • You don’t believe nipple confusion in a thing. From early pacifiers to learn sucking, then trying to breastfeed, to hospital bottles, to whatever you’re now using at home, your baby has tried it all and likely masted at least some of those just fine.

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  • You don’t know what to do with yourself that first week when there are finally no doctors appointments to attend.
  • You finally start telling the truth about his age and prematurity, to raise awareness.
  • They finally smile, for real this time, a few weeks to a month or so after they come home and you cry all the tears because of the miracle of that smile.

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Love, August – Letter One

Dear Family and Friends,

I’m super excited to be writing my first blog post now that I’m home! I’ve overcome so much these past several months and I’m getting stronger and stronger every single day. Mom and Dad cannot thank you enough for the out pouring of support, understanding, and love that has been received from everyone. So many of you have done so much for us along the way and we truly appreciate every bit of help, concern, thoughts, and prayers.

Now that I’m home, I ask that you continue to support me as I grow. Please remember that I’m still a preemie. Though I’m not in the hospital anymore, and I’m much bigger and older, being a preemie doesn’t have to do with my size or current age. Being a preemie is about being born early and because of that I still continue to have special needs.

My immune system isn’t completely developed yet. I learned from Doctors in the hospital that babies get their antibodies to work on their immune systems in the last trimester of pregnancy. I have been getting some since I’ve been eating my mom’s breast milk this whole time, but alot of my immune system development I have to do all by myself which will take time. So until I can do that, I’m going to need you to please not visit me if you are feeling sick, were recently sick, or have been caring for other sick people or children. Even if you just have a cold, please stay home. I know you really want to meet me and I really want to meet everyone too, but even a common cold can make me very sick.

My respiratory system is also still vulnerable. This is the hardest for my parent’s to explain because from the outside nobody can tell what my lungs look like. But my lungs are still immature because of being born early and because of all the breathing support I was on in the hospital. Because of this if you come over to my home please don’t wear any strong perfume or cologne. Also, if you smoke I am going to need you to change your clothing and refrain from smoking before you visit me. My lungs are very sensitive and cannot take even the smell of second hand smoke. You’ll also notice I don’t spend alot of time in my baby swing because my parents want to be sure I’m always positioned in a way that my airway is not kinked. They may remind you of this when you hold me.

And, because of this crazy weather, RSV and the flu are still around. RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) is a respiratory virus that isn’t any worse than a common cold, but for preemies like me, the virus can be quite different and very scary. Babies like me that were born before 36 weeks (I was 10 weeks before even that!) are at highest risk for complications like bronchiolitis, pneumonia, and other serious breathing problems that could but us back in the hospital. Sometimes the side effects are so bad they can be fatal for babies like me. Preventing the spread of RSV can be very difficult. The virus is spread through physical contact or through the air if you sneeze of cough. RSV can live on hands for up to 6 hours and on surfaces for up to 12 hours. It spreads very easily, especially by children. So please understand when my parent’s don’t have visitors or take me to parties during this season both this year AND next year. (October through April in the Northeast)

Regarding visits – I want to meet you as much as you want to meet me and it’s important to please ask my Mom and Dad when a good time to visit would be and also, please be mindful of how long you stay. Because my sensory system is also learning how to cope with my new world, I may get overstimulated easily. In the NICU I was kept in a warm, dark, mostly quiet place and I slept alot. I still need lots of sleep and rest because that’s when I grow. If I’m asleep when you arrive, please allow me to keep sleeping. I need all my energy to eat, grow, and thrive. Too much stimulation or over stimulation may set me back. Please understand and respect my space if I need it.

Please know that this letter is not mean to hurt or offend anyone. It is simply meant to show that even though I may be home, I still have special needs because of how early I arrived. Thank you for understanding and respecting my parents decisions to keep me happy and healthy. They have been through one of the biggest challenges of their lives and we are finally home, safe and sound.

We know that this is different for you. It is different for us, too.

Hugs (but no germy kisses)

Love, August

home is way more fun than the hospital

home is way more fun than the hospital