Real Life in the NICU

Want a super real look at life as a NICU parent?

3am alarm went off. I fumble about on the nightstand to reach my phone to silence that awful ruckus. I had put the phone well within easy reach but I am not the most coordinated when waking from awful dreams.

I start to yell for Matt’s help. Please know before reading on that this man has stood at my every call for 2 weeks when I was unable to potty by myself, pull my underwear up, or take a shower to rinse away that overripe highly medicated pharmaceutical stench. He has been nothing short of kind and encouraging throughout it all. But the past 2 nights he hasn’t been entirely awake and often leaps out of bed into action only to discover the alarm he thought he heard was only in his dream but he didn’t hear the one right before my calls for help.

So…. I ask as loudly as I can manage with other nicu parents rooming in next door (discharged and gifted the camper style value rooms). My phone falls from the table to the floor. Thank goodness I keep my own clumsiness factor in mind and always keep it in a case with tempered glass. Matt stumbles awake to get the phone before the snooze alarm goes off again. I hadn’t meant to hit snooze, mm but truly I can’t see what the heck I’m doing yet.

Then we move on to a temporary wound bandage. See, the doc wants my wound to get air. So I’ve devised a sleeping position in which I don’t roll around at all, and wear a hoodie to keep warm as well as a blanket up to the hips. The incision is out exposed to the air. But I need to use the restroom and somehow sit at a 90°ish angle while pumping, vs the 120° in bed. So, I want a temporary thing over the wound while tending to other needs.

After a quick snails pace trip to the ladies room and a precarious ballet plié tumble into bed, I get perched right on the edge of the bed so as not to pester the open spots. Matt helps me get all the tools in place for Asher’s exclusive menu.

As he was headed back to bed while I work out the next 20 minutes, I ask for my dose of pain pills. Remember folks, just last week my insides were on the outside and before putting them back were flopped about to be examined. Then they were gently smushed back in and shaken like a salad spinner followed by bread dough style kneading before being fancy taped shut with a pico vac pack. So, I’m still moist (how I loathe that word) and kinda bruised with an extra side of sticky from the medicinal tape). Matt manages to get the pill to me, but then pulls one of my moves and sprinkles the rest of the bottle like a salt shaker all over the floor.

Finally, I hunt for how to stay awake while getting Asher’s meal plan prepared. Did you know there are hormones released while milk moves that make most mommies a little drowsy? And again, this is 3am here….but this apparently makes me more sleepy than most as I also have more supply than anyone predicted. The nurses are stunned and elated at how much freezer space I’ve commandeered. Also, staying mildly distracted, especially in hands free supportive clothing, is shown to help the quantity and also the speed of these tasks. But reading anything usually just means I grow more sleepy. It’s a battle I’ve doomed to fail, and discovered last night that I fell asleep for over an hour vs the 20min pump time I should’ve had. Oops.

Now – I’m hungry too. I’ve had lots of water and likely will need to get to the restroom again before 6am feeding, and I have to get help from the delirious husband who is camping out on the special chair with the pipe in his back.

After that, he will put the bottles in the fridge to chill, wash the dishes from my bottle habit, and lay everything out for us to do again in 2 hours by now.

Man the Robertson’s sure know how to have a wild Friday night party that doesn’t end.

Can’t wait to get out of here! So glad we didn’t need to trek across the building again. Asher gets 2 supplemental feedings by bottle with vitamins and extra calories overnight with his nurse. We stay in and trash our room from 1-5am but the rest of our day looks like all this plus a wheelchair obstacle course across a few hundred yards and floors, plus diapering, temping, scrubbing in, and shuffling one very wiggly baby into place for fast food followed by my food prep storage plan.

Last thought: belly laughing really hurts still.

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Courtney Robertson

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