by Alexandra Lofton
Being a sibling of a NICU baby is a very unique experience. For me it was a time of learning and excitement; however, it was also a very challenging and frightening period. Being an 8-year-old, I was filled with excitement after receiving the news that I was getting a new baby brother! That meant I had a new person to play with and a new best friend. I could hardly wait to have a real-life baby doll to take care of and love.
I vividly remember the day that my parents sat my siblings and me down to share unfortunate news about our incoming brother. I remember them using a lot of words that I did not understand, and I just wanted to know why they were acting so serious. They spoke about “spina bifida,” “surgery,” and “neurologist,” and all of these technical words, that at the time I don’t think they understood either. I didn’t know what to think of this news but all I got out of the conversation was that my baby was going to be different and I was scared.
When Andrew was born, I did not understand why I was not allowed to see him right away. I thought I was going to be able to love on him the day he was born, and we were going to take him home and show him his new room and toys just like we did for my other younger brother. Instead, I was at school each day missing my parents and anticipating the day that I could finally see Andrew.
The day finally came that I was going to meet my little brother! My dad picked my older sister and me up from school and took us straight to the hospital. We were greeted by a child life specialist who brought us to a room to give us more information about what we were going to see when meeting Andrew in the NICU. The child life specialist explained that Andrew would be covered in wires and tubes, and she gave us a visual demonstration on a baby doll to help us better understand what we were about to see.
We were finally able to enter the NICU, and I remember being painfully nervous. Even though my parents were there with me and I had been prepared prior to meeting Andrew, it was still a very intimidating experience. My sweet little brother was wrapped up in tubes, his skin color was bright red, and he was stuck in a plastic box! I wanted to get him out of there and take him home with me. The best part of the experience was that the nurse allowed me to hold Andrew. I was terrified that I was going to break him, but the nurse assured me that everything was going to be just fine, and it sure was. Andrew and I had an instant connection. He latched on to my long hair, and we snuggled for a short time before it was time to go.
I will never forget this moment because it was a time that completely changed my life. I knew then that it was my new purpose in life to take care of this sweet little boy and protect him from anything. Andrew has also changed my life because our story has inspired me to help other families that face this similar situation. I chose to get a degree in Family and Child Development, so I can become an advocate for families that are struggling in the hospital, and ease the stressors that come about during this fragile time.