Sassy Little Rock Star: Teagan’s NICU Story

February 4, 2013
(You can read my birth story here – Parts 1, 2, 3.)
June 10th, 2010, was the first time I ever stepped into a NICU. Thirty hours after my little baby daughter arrived, I was getting to see her. I was so scared, even as much as Tom had tried to prepare me, I wanted to run the other way. As we stood washing our hands before entering, all I kept thinking was, “how did we get here?”

Once we made the turn into the NICU bay where she was, I could smell the smell I have never forgotten. There she was in her isolette – so little, so sweet, and so brave. As the nurse explained things to me, I could not take my eyes off of her. She seemed bigger, when I saw here in the operating room, but then again, I was on meds. I could not tell you one thing that was said to me, until I was asked if I wanted to hold her. Of course in my nature of politeness, I said, “No, thank you.” Tom looked at me like I was crazy, and said, “It’s okay.” He had chosen not to hold her yet, because he felt I should be the first to do that. With the nurses encouragement, they took her out and put her in my arms. That, my friends, was an amazing feeling! I knew then that we could get through this. I only held her for a few minutes, since she was not holding her own temperature yet.

I spent the next 4 days in the hospital, being there made this all seem so easy. Maybe it’s because she was just down the hall from me. I walked that hall a million times in those four days.

In those days, I began kangaroo care, and pumping, and whatever else they told me I could do. Then came Sunday, my doctor came in early to see me, and said, “When you are ready, you can go home.”   I was thrilled, yet the reality had not set in – I was leaving without her.
As I went back to the NICU before we left, I kept telling myself, “This is no big deal. You can come back and forth whenever.”  I gave her a little kiss and headed back to my room to get my bag. Tom said he was packed up. As we got in the car, I tried to be strong, but my heart was broken – she was still in the NICU. I don’t even think I was home 10 minutes and told him to take me back. This began the next 25 days that felt like a lifetime.

Day 13

I could not drive for the next 10 days. Tom worked nights and slept during the day.   For us our NICU time was very scheduled. We would go in about 9:00am when he got home for work, then head home for him to sleep. Around 2:00-3:00pm we would head back in and stay for awhile. After that visit, we would have dinner together and he would take his nap prior to his midnight shift. My sister would pick me up at 7:15pm for the last visit I could do each day. Not being able to drive was horrible. My sister took me every night and let me stay as long as I wanted, no matter how early she had to work the next day. The entire time I would just keep an eye on the board for her temperature, and weight, and hope that it went up and stayed there. Tom always called in at 4:00am during his work break to check on her, so that helped too.

Daddy time

In the first few weeks, we had weight loss, temperature issues and jaundice. Watching her lay under the lights was so bizarre – like a mini tanning bed. As her feeding amounts increased, I was letting my guard down. We had been very blessed that all her labs, ultrasounds and other tests were coming back normal. We got to a point where we knew it was about learning to eat, gaining weight and keeping the weight on. Dr. Mike referred to her as his rock star – words I was thrilled to hear! As the days went on, she was giving the nurses a hard time – somehow she could get out of her swaddle and move to the end of the isolette. To me, this showed she was a sassy girl, who would get bigger and leave the NICU.

Last day before feeding tube was removed

The next few days that turned into weeks, began to really play tricks on my mind. Sometimes I felt like this was all a dream or a nightmare. How could my body fail me like this? There are so many emotions that I still sometimes have a hard time understanding. The idea of of coming home seemed like it would never arrive.

Car seat test

My first clear thought that one day she would come home, was when she passed the car seat test! I was never so happy as to see her out of her crib, sound asleep, in that carrier.

I remember one day shortly before we brought her home, that I was at the NICU earlier than normal for me. I sat there in our little pod, watching 3 other babies leave with their families. It was one of the lowest points for me. I felt like I could not get up from the chair. I did not want to believe it was not us. While I sat there, I saw another mom staring off with the same despair I had. I tried to smile at her, but tears were all I could muster.

Then the moment of freedom arrived! My hubby always called in at 4:00am to check in with the nurses on his break. They had been waiting for his call. Her weight had been great and she was going home that day. He was texting me, calling me, and I never heard the phone. I think now that someone wanted me to have a well rested night, because our home was about to be filled! When he got home from work, we headed to the NICU. I expected to be there for awhile, so he went off to see our older daughter’s softball game, before we would all head home together. Needless to say, he did not see that game. I called him and explained the paperwork was all ready. He turned back around to find us waiting for him.

Headed home!
Sissy holding Teagan for 1st time
One thing about July 9th 2010, was how much it affected my husband. As men, they’re supposed to be strong, to show no emotions. He sat in that pod for the last time, as I ran around hugging and thanking everyone. I looked over and he was just there in the moment with her. I felt a tug in my heart and thought, “I love him more now, then I could have ever imagined.” We had made it through the 5 weeks of bed rest prior to delivery and the last 30 days in the NICU. The emotions, the fights, the hormones… and we would soon all be under the same roof.
At 11:55am, exactly 30 days and 5 minutes since she entered the world, she was finally headed home with us…
We had graduated from the NICU.