Prior to our personal experience, everything I knew about the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) was learned from watching Alex Karev on Grey’s Anatomy. However, that quickly changed when we found out we were pregnant with triplets. Pregnancy with higher order multiples (triplets, quadruplets, or more) greatly increases the chances that your babies will spend time in the NICU because what is considered full term for these pregnancies is shorter than a singleton pregnancy. Our story was no different.
I remember being on bedrest and reading as much about the NICU as I could to prepare myself for what this would mean for our family. I worried and prayed as I read about all the possible issues we may encounter. I received steroid shots to push lung development in our babies and waited, thanking God for each day we made it closer to our goal date. At 34 weeks exactly, our trio was born. One of my biggest worries was not being able to hold my babies, but thankfully, we were able to take our first picture as a family of five before they were evaluated and sent to the NICU.
Our babies were classified as “growers and feeders” which meant they just needed to gain weight and prove they could feed well before being cleared to go home. It’s honestly the least daunting of NICU stories, and for that we’re very thankful. Sixteen days later, we loaded three car seats into our minivan and commenced full-time parenting.
Many parents don’t have the time to prepare themselves emotionally and mentally for life in the NICU like we did, and my planner personality greatly appreciates that perk of our story. Even so, NICU life presented a roller coaster of emotions and feelings that was unlike any other.
It was emotionally, physically, and mentally draining.
Between post-pregnancy hormones and feeling like a part of me was constantly missing, I’m pretty sure I cried every night. Even though we had no babies at home, I still woke up every three hours to pump, so I didn’t get much sleep. Worry and fear struck anytime the hospital’s number showed up on my phone. And let’s not even talk about trying to make myself look presentable five days postpartum to visit the NICU.
We felt Guilty.
Even though self-care is important, we felt guilt eating at restaurants, going to the store, or resuming our routine while the babies were in the NICU. It was a tough battle for us, and I cannot imagine how difficult this can be for a long-term NICU parent.
NICU Nurses are phenomenal.
We credit the NICU nurses with getting our babies on a good schedule. They loved them, fed them, bathed, and dressed them when we couldn’t be at the hospital. Our nurses truly cared about our babies and their progress. They taught my husband how to change diapers in the isolette (our marriage thanks you). They gave us tips on feeding and burping and were overall encouragers to us as we learned to care for our babies in the first days of parenthood. We truly missed their expertise and advice when we arrived home with three babies.
No two NICU experiences are identical, but hopefully this sheds more light on the roller coaster of this reality. And if you’re still wondering, it was far from anything I’d seen on Grey’s Anatomy.