NICU Awareness Month-Our {brief} yet terrifying NICU stay

September is NICU awareness month {Neonatal Intensive Care Unit}. A year ago this might catch my eye slightly, but after experiencing the NICU for myself, 4 months ago, it has taken a whole new meaning in my life. No new mom or dad wants to experience the NICU in any way, or I should say in my experience, I never thought it would happen to me, to my baby.

When I use to think of the NICU I really thought of just preemie babies because that seemed like the only reason most babies were sent to the NICU. I was wrong. My son was a big 8 pound 10 ounce boy in the NICU.  There are so many reasons a baby could be sent here. I am so beyond blessed my hospital is a level 3 rated NICU with the most amazing RN’s, nurse practitioners and a neonatal doctor always readily available. I did not expect this in the panhandle of Texas of all places.

When I was about 33-34 weeks pregnant, I began experiencing what are called {pre-term} labor symptoms. I would wake up in so much pain some nights that could last all night, 12 hours. I was given the talk from my doctor about {if} things were to get consistent at that point my son would need steroid shots for his lungs and would be sent to the NICU for a period of time. I burst into tears at this appointment. I was not ready to hear that. I was so emotional that day. I was told to take it {extra} easy at this point, to go about my regular routine, but add in more time off my feet. So being the overly cautious person I am, I added in lots of binge watching of Netflix {I literally watched all 6 seasons of Parenthood} and more naps.

I went to the doctor every week from that point and would cross my fingers nothing more would happen. Every appointment was such a relief to go home and not be too much more dilated. I made it to 37 weeks which was my big goal, I wanted to make it to what was considered full term. Then I made it all the way to 40 weeks and this boy had decided he was cozy. The NICU was out of my mind at this point.

I was induced on my actual due date and my only fear was how much it was going to hurt. I mean it crossed my mind that more could go wrong, but till I went through actual labor and delivery I didn’t realize HOW much could actually go wrong. It is a scary thing. I still figured since I was full term, that nothing would be wrong with my baby. After 3 hours of pushing, there he was, not breathing, and my heart sank. A mom can never describe this moment. As a mom I just wanted my boy, I wanted to hold him, love on him, make all the bad go away, and I couldn’t do that for him. I had protected him for almost 10 months and there the world was to smack him in the worst possible way. The NICU crew rushed in and immediately worked on my precious boy. The incubator came into the room, and I knew he wasn’t okay. My husband and I were terrified, and of course in the moment there are no answers of what is wrong, they just have to take your baby. The baby we had tried almost 2 years for, had waited through a miserable pregnancy, and now here we were waiting again, this time not sure if our boy was going to be okay. Ugh I still cry when I think of these moments.

The staff in our NICU was absolutely amazing. I remember the nurse practitioner coming in and explaining every detail of what was going on to me. My son, Trent, was experiencing a lot. He basically was wheezing like he has run a marathon and couldn’t catch his breath, he had a pooped while in the womb {melatonin}, he had blood pooling between his skull and skin due to {cephalohematoma}, his blood levels were down,and so many things. I felt numb. I was listening, but felt like I wasn’t there. How was this happening? I remember just wanting to go to him, but wasn’t able to till I recovered a little longer, so my husband went and I was just there waiting, alone. Waiting for that moment to hold my baby.

Finally the time came and my nurses were getting me ready to go to the NICU for the first time to see my boy. He was finally breathing on his own and I was recovered enough to go. If I could sprint to that room I would have. I remember running into my husband on my way and him taking me to the NICU. I was wheeled up right next to this sweet, handsome, innocent boy. He was wrapped up in cords and as a mother all you see is your baby. All I could do was touch his hand and look at him. I could have stayed there for hours just watching him breathe. Breath after breath. I could finally breathe too. But still we weren’t sure what was going on.

His red blood cell levels were not increasing on his own. Due to the head trauma, the excessive pooling of blood was causing his cell count to lower, so he had to receive blood platelets {blood transfusion}. As new parents, we had no clue what all of this meant. Was this going to cause permanent damage? How long could this go on? Nothing was known.

That afternoon I was told {finally} the next round, I would be able to hold my son. It couldn’t come fast enough. It was a whole routine, every 3 hours we could go to him, help with taking his temperature and changing his diapers, and just talk and touch his hands. I just remember coming back. He had a head wrap around his whole head, trying to stop the swelling and he had to be given pain medication as he was just inconsolable {most likely headaches}, and I just remember that very first time he was handed to me in the NICU, on my chest. He instantly was calm and was in the perfect spot. My gosh. How can a mother describe this love?? This was MY baby. MY son. NOTHING in this world is better than that moment. NOTHING. He was PERFECT. And the next best thing,hours later, was seeing my husband hold his boy for the first time. My heart just melted. It seemed like everything was going to be okay for the first time.

At this point, he was still in a bunch of cords from monitors, to his umbilical IV pumping in fluids and antibiotics, his actual only food source for the first 24 hours. After 24 hours we got to attempt bottle feeding. He did not go for it. After numerous tries, a tube was placed in his nose for milk. This just felt like another set back. Another cord. When would we get rid of the cords? Every three hours, I would attempt breastfeeding, then bottle, then whatever he didn’t take would be put in the tube. Finally one time he took the bottle and we had SUCH relief! Within 24 hours he finally was eating! Now the cords were starting to disappear slowly, the best feeling ever. The final cord finally came off after days of worrying and adding in more. We were able to give him a bath for the first time, and put a shirt on him! These little things that I didn’t think would be such a huge deal were SO big. I had brought like 4 different outfits to the hospital and he didn’t get to wear anything up to this point other than little socks. He was now in an actual bassinet most babies get placed in right away! Talk about the biggest smiles on our faces.

That next day, day four, we still had no answers on when we might possibly get to leave with our baby. The hospital was so kind in letting us room in our room for that extra night before, at no charge, so we wouldn’t have to leave the hospital without our boy. My biggest fear at that point was going home empty handed, I refused. The nurse this day brought up the best news, we were going to be able to room in with our son for the first time! He was being monitored, we had to record what he ate, if he pooped, peed, spit up, call with everything to the NICU across the hallway, and every few hours a nurse would have to come check his vitals. I finally could hold my son freely, alone, away from nurses and doctors. I could put him in a pajama finally and just love every ounce of him as long as I possibly wanted, no time limit anymore. We made it through the night, not to say we slept a wink, but he did great and we were finally going to go home! It was mothers day and what more could a new mom ask for than going home with her baby on that day.

I truly went through the ringer that first week with my son. We didn’t know if he would be okay or not. We were {so} blessed that it all ended up being just {5} days in the NICU. It could have been so much worst. We are so thankful for our NICU and the way they treated us and the care provided to our son. My heart goes out to the parents that spend weeks, or even months, in the NICU. I can’t even imagine. It is so hard to experience this as a parent, to look at your baby, but not hold them like they deserve, to worry every second, to not know what each minute will bring. It is the worst feeling. Although everyone was so great, I hope to never go back to the NICU as a parent going to see their baby there. So rather than just another month of the year, this month really deserves to be recognized as NICU awareness month. I can’t believe 4 months ago today we checked into the hospital never expecting to have a NICU story to tell. Now I have a happy, strong, stubborn 4 month old {today} baby boy!


My name is Chelsie Overgaauw. Born in New Mexico, grew up in California, and now living my adult life in Texas. I am a 26 year old stay at home {new} mama to my sweet boy and I am married to my best friend. I have experienced a lot in life already, good and bad, and have a lot more to experience. I am a lover of cooking, writing, photography, and design. Follow along to learn more.

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