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When Baby Stays at the Hospital

Beth Heller, M.S.

I just got an email from a friend who delivered a baby prematurely. The prognosis for her daughter is excellent but her email transported me back in time. Both my boys spent time in infant intensive care after their birth, Jackson for one week and Calvin for two. In the scope of what many preemie parents go through our stays were a walk in the park. Yet after struggling with infertility and experiencing a still birth in my first full-term pregnancy it felt like a great injustice that I couldn’t just take my babies home.

I have crystal clear memories of that time. The drives to and from Evanston Hospital NICU at all hours of day and night, at first being unable and unwilling to go home, then settling into a routine that allowed for regular hours but filled me with guilt that I wasn’t at the hospital. Pumping and dropping off breast milk, trying to help my boys learn to nurse, kangaroo-ing (letting the boys sleep my or my husband’s bare chest), scrubbing my hands in the giant pre-op style sink six times a day until they turned raw. The oxygen monitor that would sound an alarm when a baby would “de-sat,” drop below a critical level of oxygen in their blood. All that time dealing with postpartum emotions and hormonal swings. Man, it was rough. But, as worried as I was, I would look at my almost full term boys who were giant compared to the tiny preemies and count my blessings.

One of the saving graces of my boys NICU experiences was postpartum acupuncture, herbal therapy and massage at Pulling Down the Moon. It not only supported milk production and relieved anxiety, it helped me feel more normal and hopeful. My practitioner was very knowledgable and treated me like a new mom. My massage therapist helped my body heal and realign to non-pregnant shape. I slept better. I used my yoga training, too. One thing I loved to see what how my boys’ blood oxygen would rise when they lay on my chest as I did deep yogic breathing. I believe to this day that they would pick up on the peace that the yoga breath was giving me and relax in turn.

I’d love to hear from other moms who have had NICU experiences. What helped you the most during this time?