More on Disney Baby
Create magical moments with these inspired ideas and feel-good products.
A Look Back at Life in the NICU for World Prematurity Day
Today is World Prematurity Day. One out of every ten births is premature worldwide. I can confidently say, no parents ever expect to become the parents of a preemie baby: we sure didn’t when Judah surprised us with his early arrival! For the first twenty-nine days of his life, Judah lived in the NICU – out of state and 300+ miles away from our home – and we were right there by his side for every moment.
In honor of World Prematurity Day, I wanted to look back at our strange days of life in the NICU, of our son’s incredible fight and amazing resilience to offer hope, support and inspiration to others who may be parenting preemie babies of their own.
World Prematurity Day
It’s incredible how our son Judah spent nearly a month in the NICU when he was born. It feels like it was ages ago, but I can still remember things from our time there as if it were yesterday.
Welcome to the World!
Judah was born 5 weeks, 4 days early. Despite this, he weighed a hefty 5 pounds, 7 ounces at birth and came screaming into the world with a strong set of lungs.
Even though we were very unprepared for his early arrival, it’s amazing how instantly the “parenting” instinct kicks in.
Little But Fierce
Everything is so perfectly tiny about newborns: we were constantly fascinated by his little toes, his little ears. But despite his tiny size, our little boy was a fierce fighter, especially when he got very sick a few days after he was born.
Learning to Adjust
It was so hard seeing our little guy in his little isolette every day, but we knew it was what was best for him and could touch and hold him at certain times of the day. Since he was so early, it was important to recreate a womb-like environment for him as he continued to grow.
The Power of Kangaroo Care
Kangaroo care, also known as skin-to-skin contact, is immensely powerful for the growth and development of preemie babies in the NICU. The warmth and closeness – whether from mom or dad – is immensely comforting and helps babies regulate their temperature, heart and respiratory rates.
Our New Normal
Life in the NICU is not for the faint of heart, but as parents, you’ll do whatever you have to for your preemie baby. We were there every morning by 8am and often didn’t leave until midnight each night. When Judah was at his sickest, we actually stayed overnight in the hospital, just feet from the NICU entrance.
One Day at a Time
Like most newborns, Judah slept a lot. But we were always there, comforting him, holding and touching him when we could, including helping out with his care (changing his diaper, switching his blood pressure cuff to the other foot, taking his temperature) every three hours.
How We Stayed Informed
Life in the NICU is a blur of resources: a team of neonatologists, a new nurse every 12 hours, x-ray techs, social workers, lactation consultants, nurse managers… sometimes it was hard to keep track of all the information. We learned about the book Preemies and it practically became our bible.
How We Stayed Sane
One of the strange parts of life in the NICU was the ability to leave at night, if we chose. I celebrated my 31st birthday while Judah was in the hospital and it was a challenging balance: sometimes I felt guilty. But we tried to live life as normally as we could, including finally indulging in sushi for the first time since I had gotten pregnant.
Always By His Side
When we weren’t running out to get dinner outside of the hospital or grabbing a few hours of sleep, we were always by Judah’s side. We loved to read to him: it helped him to hear our voices and gave us something to do during the long stretches of the day while he slept.
The Waiting Game
Whenever we asked, “When do you think he can come home?” the answer always seemed to be “About another two weeks.” Judah was just as impatient as we were, but we knew that every day he spent there in the care of his fantastic team of doctors and nurses only helped him get stronger.
Our Little Warrior
Judah did get very sick for about two weeks but he fought through it like a champ. We knew we had named him well: Judah was a warrior in the Old Testament and his middle name, Takeshi, is an ancient Japanese word meaning “samurai.”
Achievement Unlocked: Bassinet!
We were over the moon when Judah was finally moved from the closed-top isolette to his open-top bassinet after 21 days. It meant we could finally pick him up and hold him whenever we pleased… which was pretty much all the time after that point.
Once the worst of his infection was over, the focus shifted on getting him to eat without his feeding tube. We went at a much slower pace than when he first started on non-NG tube feedings, adding more time to his stay.
After 29 days in the NICU, it was finally time to get him outta there! It was thrilling to hold him without being connected to any monitors for the first time since he was born.
Breakin' Outta This Joint!
Even though I was almost a month post-partum, I was still required to take him out sitting in a wheelchair. Larry could barely contain his excitement as we left!
A Breath of Fresh Air
For the first time since he was born, Judah got to take his first big breaths of fresh air! We were finally on our way home, after 29 very long days.
Six Months Later...
…you’d almost never know that Judah was even in the hospital for so long! He’s two feet tall and nearly a hefty fourteen pounds… and happy as can be!