Being a NICU mom isn’t easy. Most days are spent going to and from the hospital multiple times a day, all the while still going on with your daily life especially if you have other children at home. In honor of Neonatal Intensive Care Awareness Month, I thought I would share what a typical day in the life of a NICU mom is like.
6: 45 AM: I wake up to the feeling of full breasts and while still half asleep, I put on my hands free bra and set myself up to begin the first pump of the day. Even though my baby may not tolerate feeds yet, I’m still pumping to keep my body on track and to build up a stash. Once he can receive breast milk, there will be some waiting for him!
7:00 AM: It’s after shift change in the hospital and my husband calls to see how the baby did overnight and writes it down in his notebook.
7:15 AM: Check on the kids and make sure they are up and fed breakfast before school. Pack my daily bag for the hospital which consists of a pumping bra, all my pumping parts, an ice cold tote full of the last few pumps of breast milk, my laptop and snacks.
7:45 AM: Drop the boys off at school and head to get my daily dose of caffeine. Then head on over to the hospital.
8:00 AM: Arrive to the hospital and check into the NICU. While I sanitize my arms and hands, I pray for a good day. I then make my way to my son’s room. I meet his nurse for the day and go over any changes in care that may have been made from the doctors.
8:30 AM: Thankfully my baby is well enough to be held. I happily did skin to skin with him. This is when he is placed directly on my chest under my clothes, commonly called “kangaroo care.” While holding him, he could have an episode of apnea or bradycardia which may cut our time short but nonetheless, I cherish every second I get to hold him.
9:15 AM: Bowel movement! I know, who gets excited about changing a dirty diaper? I’ll tell you who, NICU Moms! The simple task of changing diapers is very exciting to us since they are under the hospitals care. Since I’m changing his diaper, the nurse also wants me to check his temperature which I graciously do.
9:30 AM: Lactation knocks on the door to check in how things are doing with pumping. I’m thankful for the check in visits because I always have questions. We talk about ways to increase my supply and ways for me to incorporate pictures and videos of my son while I’m not in the NICU to help with supply issues.
10:00 AM: It’s time to pump! I pull back the curtain around the recliner and my son’s isolette, put on my pumping bra and attach myself to the pump. Pumping in the unit is a quiet time I really enjoy because I get to be with my baby.
10:30 AM: The Occupational Therapist is here to work on the baby with feeding. Learning to take a bottle for a premature baby is a lot of work. They have to learn how to suck, swallow and breathe all at the same time. Seeing your 2 pound baby trying to bottle feed is trying, but it just shows much of a fighter he is.
10:40 AM: *Beep, beep* The alarms start ringing and the nurses come running in. My son stopped breathing while he was feeding and needed to be stimulated to breathe again. Even though this is very common while in the NICU, it still scares me every single time. The therapist works with him for as long as he will tolerate. Afterwards, he is exhausted. I’ve been told his feeding session is equivalent to me running.
11:00 AM: While my baby rests peacefully in his isolette, I take a rest myself. His room has a couch and I put my feet up and listen to the hums of his machines. I take this time to check in on social media, make a few calls or even just rest my eyes. Recovering from childbirth is hard regardless, so the added stress of your child being in the hospital is both mentally and physically exhausting.
12:00 PM: My husband meets me mid morning / lunch time. We try venture out of the hospital to a nearby restaurant to get a bit of a break. It’s nice that we can enjoy each other’s company during this crazy time. Thankfully our NICU has cameras and we can watch what the baby is doing remotely.
1:00 PM: Arrive back to the NICU and sit by the baby’s bedside. Now it’s my husband’s turn for cuddling. While he does a skin to skin session, I get ready to pump.
1:10 PM: It’s time to pump, again!
1:30 PM: While pumping, the pediatric optometrist comes in to check on my son’s eyes. Since he is on oxygen, they monitor their eyes quite frequently. Sadly we are on the doctor’s watch and not ours, so the cuddle session gets broken up.
2:00 PM: I start to get emotional as it’s been weeks now that my son has been in the NICU. I cry almost daily. I sit by his bedside while tears slowly roll down my face. I know I have to leave him soon to get the other kids from school and the guilt builds up.
2:30 PM: Leave the hospital to get the kids from school.
3:00 PM: Pick up kids from school.
3:30 PM: Get home and start homework. I log onto my phone to see how the baby is doing on the camera.
4:00 PM: Time to pump … again. I call his nurse to get a quick update.
5:30 PM: Husband arrives home from work.
6:00 PM: Dinner as a family while all I can think of is how I wish I could be in two places at once. I feel incredibly guilty to enjoy anything “normal” while a piece of my heart is without me.
8:00 PM: It’s bath and bedtime for the big kids.
8:30 PM: My mom comes over while the big kids are sleeping so my husband and I can head off to the NICU again. I don’t know how I would do it without my village of help.
8:45 PM: My husband drives us to the hospital while I pump.
9:15 PM: Arrive at the hospital, we scrub in again and hand over the liquid gold to my sons nurse.
9:30 PM: I’m tired and I’m trying to keep my eyes open at my baby’s bedside. Thankfully I can hold him again. While I’m holding him as he is sleeping on my chest, I can feel his heart sync with mine and become teary eyed. I’m beyond lucky.
10:45 PM: We then say our goodbyes for the night to our precious tiny baby in his isolette. We gather up our belongings and head back to the parking garage and head home.
11:15 PM: Arrive at home, put on the tv to catch up on some DRV and begin to pump. While pumping, I have my son’s NICU camera on my phone and I see he is getting his diaper changed.
11:45 PM: Call my son’s nurse to see how he has done the last couple of hours. I’m tired. My head hits the pillow and I try to sleep. My mind races as I drift off to a light sleep. Before I go to bed, I make sure I have my phone on with the loudest ring just in case the hospital calls. I set my alarm to wake up. I’ll do almost the exact same thing tomorrow and pray for an uneventful day.
While every day is different in the NICU, each one is physically and emotionally tolling. Many days I would leave in tears, even if my baby had a great day. Walking the halls to and from the unit was tough. I had no idea what each family was experiencing personally but still felt a connection to each of them; we are all in this journey together.
September is National NICU Awareness Month, and I hope this post gave you a small glimpse on what many mothers go through when their newborns are admitted to the NICU. Every NICU baby is a survivor and I’m here to tell you; so are their parents!