Editor’s note: In honor of Prematurity Awareness Month, we asked a mom of one of our NICU graduates to share her family’s story here.
My husband and I were absolutely ecstatic when we learned we were having our first child. As many new soon-to-be moms, I immediately began planning my maternity leave. Our due date was very close to Thanksgiving, so as a working mom, I was thrilled because I knew that I could wrap my time off of work around the holiday season.
I decided to receive prenatal care through the Vanderbilt Nurse-Midwives. The midwives were very caring and made me feel comfortable with my choice of a natural childbirth. Although I had a couple of “hiccups” during my first and second trimester (diagnosed with pregnancy related hypothyroidism and a low-lying placenta), I felt good and was awaiting the arrival of our son.
I didn’t have to wait very long. On September 3, 2008, our son was born. I woke up in the middle of the night and was rushed to Vanderbilt University Medical Center because my placenta ruptured. It was such a shock! My husband and I didn’t even have a name for him yet. We agreed to name him Owen. The name Owen meant “little fighter” and we prayed for him to be one.
Owen’s weighed 3 lbs 1 oz and was 16 inches long when he was born to this world. He spent the first week of his life at Stahlman.
He seemed like the tiniest and most fragile thing in the world. I was scared and intimidated by all of the tubes, attachments, monitors and sounds, but I quickly learned what all of those sounds and tubes meant and how they helped Owen survive.
I was very grateful to our “primary nurse”, who was able to explain procedures that Owen needed and encouraged family participation at the level my husband and I felt most comfortable with.
The NICU staff were very supportive as I was overwhelmed, exhausted and an emotional mess. My husband’s parents lived in Chattanooga and mine in Ohio. I had limited family support, and I felt all alone. Although it was obvious that we were not the only family going through this NICU experience, it sure felt like it.
I remember the NICU staff encouraged me to attend the NICU support group that met weekly, but I didn’t feel as though I was ready. I was still scared and extremely emotional. However, after two weeks, I went and it was good. It was nice to know that I was not alone- that other parents just like me were going through a similar experience.
Owen was in the Monroe Carrell Junior Children’s Hospital NICU for 60 days. During those two months he changed rooms 7 times before being transferred to the PICU for his final week. This is where my husband and I learned to partner with Owen’s NICU team.
We learned when rounds occurred and how our input as a parent was most valuable. Owen experienced feeding issues, bradycardia, and apnea. As part of the team, I was involved in the decision making process and demonstrated confidence to care for our son. In fact, on day 58, I was asked by the NICU attending physician if I thought Owen was ready to go home. It felt great to be able to say “yes” and explain “why”.
Owen is now 6-years-old and began kindergarten this year. He has a younger sister, Mia. My husband and I are very thankful and appreciative of the outstanding care and compassion that Owen received during his stay in the NICU.