I didn’t know a thing about the NICU before I started having kids. I knew my nieces had spent a week or two in one when they were first born. I knew I needed to wash my hands and arms up to my elbows with special soap using a hard brush. I knew going to the NICU when you were potentially sick was a huge no-no. I knew that was where babies went if they were born early or sick. Still, I had no idea what it’s like to see your baby in the NICU.
The reality is that seeing your child in the neonatal intensive care unit of a hospital is one of the most frightening things you can imagine. There are different experiences, of course. Some parents give birth to pre-term babies as young as 25 weeks and spend months at their infant’s side in the NICU. Other parents have a full-term baby with jaundice that needs to spend a couple of days under observation. As I write this, I have a friend whose son might be spending his first few days of life in the NICU and her experience with a baby at 34 weeks will be much different to the loss of my preterm daughter (who spent a few hours in the NICU) or the birth of my son (who spent 2 months struggling to get better).
Since there are so many different experiences, I spoke with several moms who gave me their version of what this experience was like.