The Tipping List
75 nights in the NICU
By: Julie Ryan Evans
I loved every minute of being pregnant. The tiredness (which required many naps), the maternity clothes, the crazy pregnant brain that put my cleaning supplies in the refrigerator and my frozen peas in the linen closet-I relished them all. Unfortunately, I had a lot less to relish than most pregnant women. I was supposed to get 40 weeks of prenatal pleasure; I had just 27.
I’m the oldest of four. My mom delivered each of us on our exact due date. I told my doctor that based on this and the fact that I’m the most punctual person on earth; she could count on me to deliver on my due date-October 29. Nolan Patrick was born August 5, weighing only 1 pound, 15 ounces-less than a bag of flour, less than so many things. I had only seen babies that tiny on television.
Nolan spent 75 nights in the NICU with his fragile-looking body hooked up to an amazing array of wires, tubes, machines and mechanisms. All we could do was wait, watch and try to Google the hell out of the hell we were going through.
Life in the NICU is scary and tense and filed with emotions. Here are some of the things that helped us:
Amazing Staff-We had a wonderful team of doctors and caring nurses-one of whom is still a dear friend to this day-who responded patiently and thoroughly to our questions. Treating them with as much kindness as you can (even though you’re an emotional mess) goes a long way-so do baked goods!
Getting Away-We took time out each day to have dinner together-just my husband and I. It was a bit pricey, but to go out each night, have a glass of wine, have someone else take care of us, if only for a meal, and get away from the hospital was an amazingly freeing part of each day we looked forward to. Then we’d race back to the hospital for Nolan’s nightly weigh in.
Support-Our family and friends were incredible. They sent amazingly thoughtful gifts (no flowers or plants are allowed in the NICU) like snacks, books and magazines to fill our hours. While I didn’t want to speak with anyone on the phone, the cards, letters and e-mails were incredibly uplifting and appreciated.
Get Informed-Others will caution you to not do too much research, that you’ll just scare yourself. I disagree. I think you need to be armed with all the information you can get-ask questions, don’t be afraid to speak up if something doesn’t sound or look right. Doctors do make mistakes and miss things. Just be sure the delivery of your questions is respectful.
Fortunately, our journey with Nolan was filled mostly with ups, and today he’s a healthy, happy, bright boy. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case with preemies, and we know how blessed and lucky we are. So on those days when my now-4-year-old is throwing his third tantrum and screaming that he hates me, I remember his tiny beginning, his fight for survival, and I try to muster up some extra patience.