A few months ago, we were lucky to serve as Ali's doulas and birth photographer for her scheduled Csection at Howard County General Hospital. The day did however not go as anticipated and this sweet family entered the strong world of NICU families. Ali so graciously shared her experience as a NICU mom below. Make sure to check out her video to see images from that day and see how wonderful Ford is doing now.
"Driving home from the hospital with a brand new and painfully empty car seat is not how my husband and I envisioned our first adventure back into the world as parents. After five days in the harsh fluorescent lights of the hospital, the round the clock pain medicine and nurse check-ins, the fresh air should have been a welcomed change. The experience sent a sense of panic through my core that will stay with me; we were leaving our sweet brand new baby boy behind in the NICU. That car ride home, although only fifteen minutes, was the longest drive of my life, every inch getting further from my new reason for existing.
We settled into a new and very foreign routine of what is NICU life. We could call into the NICU nurse as soon as we woke up to see how our son did that evening, with an ever present nervous anticipation. I quickly ate breakfast that my husband insisted he bring me in bed since my incision my my csection didn't make the stairs of our townhouse very appealing those first few weeks. He was the best nurse and honestly cared for me in a way that has made us closer then ever before. I think there is a level of intimacy that comes from bringing a child into the world that is indescribable. Add the NICU experience to this and we were entered uncharted territory as a couple. Each day, we got ready and drove into the hospital to spend the day with our son. We only left after he fell asleep after his 11:00pm feeding. Our days were broken into three hour segments for his feedings which passed oddly fast and sometimes painfully slow. They were spotted with eager visitors to which we had to explain the infamous three minute hand washing station and give them an update on the days happenings. Doting grandparents tried to help in any way they could, always with lunch or a snack in tow. Our support system was (and is) so strong and feeling how loved our little family was joyfully overwhelming despite our circumstances. Seeing my family and friends meet our son for the first time made my heart so incredibly happy and was a very welcomed distraction. In between the feedings and visits we had check-ins from his doctors, nurses, physicians assistants, case workers, lactation consultant and specialists. They were beyond helpful and cared for us and our son in a way that we can never repay them. We were forced to lean on their knowledge and guidance through some tough days. We lovingly referred to it as NICU baby bootcamp. Having such kind nurses and hospital staff was the main reason why our experience was so positive, we had one-on-one newborn how-to's from feeding tips, to bathing and the proper way hold and swaddle. His nurses always checked in with us if we wanted to feed him or change a diaper and tried to make us feel as if we were at home with no help. I can certainly attribute my newborn know-how to those one-on-one sessions with many of the sweet nurses who cared for our son.
Although we came away with an overall positive experience we, as all NICU parents do, had some extremely difficult days and nights. On two separate occasions we were prepared to take home our baby. His 72 hour waiting period of sustained oxygen levels would allow him to be released, and each time on that much anticipated final day, his oxygen levels would go below the threshold. With that his waiting period of being cleared to come home would restart. I can remember my heart sinking each time getting the news. I was frustrated that I couldn't do more to help my son besides being patient, trusting and relying on his doctors. I'll never forget while I was still in the hospital myself going to visit him for the "first time", I say this because the day of my C-section I was on so much medication I don't fully remember being wheeled into the NICU after surgery. The c-section had been planned for medical reasons, but the complications were something we did not expect. Fortunately, our doctors and nurses allowed Brittany to come in as our doula and photographer. Now I am forever great film for the photographs that will fill the whole in my memory for that day.
The day after surgery, while sitting in a wheelchair next his hospital crib and staring into the goodness of his sweet little face, a nurse greeted us happily and taped a handmade sign with decorations, little stickers, his name and birth stats on his crib. My husbands face was so sweet looking at them, so happy to see such a sweet gesture. But I looked around and all the other little cribs searching for the other personalized signs. I started to panic. It made me feel as if my son now belonged there and not at home where he should have been! Each of these little signs represented someone else's entire world, so much joy and so much pain all wrapped up into one, and the kindness of strangers who were in charge of keeping our little sweet babies alive. It's amazing how something so small can impact your emotions so vastly, but they did.
I've developed a new kind of patience with this experience; the kind you have to have when waiting for test results, doctors to round, or for the time to pass on a 72 hour countdown. You need that sense of calm and patience to sit in a small room, riddled with beeps and nurses hustling about, other newborns crying and that awful fluorescent lighting. Amidst all of this sitting in a room holding your newborn, wires and oxygen tubes and all, for the first time was truly the best moment of your life. My husband swears that my strength and patience turned on just like a light switch when I became Ford's mommy.
Those seventeen days were somehow the best and worst days of my life, we learned so much, grew stronger each day, just like our son did. With the support of an amazing NICU staff, family, and friends my husband and I brought a beautiful and healthy baby boy home in his now occupied car seat on June 19th, it was the sweetest car ride we have ever taken. Fordham Gyger Floyd we will love you forever."
Thank you for sharing your experience Ali. Welcome to the strong moms club!