The Emotional NICU Rollercoaster

NICU

Aside from some seriously swollen cankles and some minor mood swings, I had a relatively lackluster (read: glowless) pregnancy. That is, until 35 weeks when I developed severe preeclampsia and had to deliver my baby immediately.

Throughout my entire pregnancy I worried about losing my baby and as soon the doctor told me I would be delivering the following morning, that fear grew to an all-time high. I was worried that her lungs wouldn’t be developed enough to breathe on her own or that my high blood pressure would put her in distress, or (God forbid) that she wouldn’t make it.

After a short labor, my fears were realized when I delivered a slimy, cone-headed, purple tinted baby to a quiet room. I didn’t get my immediate skin to skin like I had so carefully requested in my birth plan; in fact, I barely got to see her before they whisked her away to the NICU.

I expected the emotional rollercoaster to end upon delivery, but it was just beginning. That first night that I was alone in my room, I cried my eyes out saying “I can’t do this–I’m not strong enough” and “it’s not fair.” I felt empty inside. The self-pity, worry, anger, jealousy, and depression immediately consumed me.

My heart broke every time I heard a baby crying in the room next door; I had to choke back the tears any time I saw a new father carrying their car seat up to the 4th floor to take home their bundle of joy; and I turned green with envy when I saw new babies on my Facebook or Instagram feeds while my baby was downstairs like this:

Lily

What I didn’t expect was the emotion that hit next: guilt. Despite my baby being as sick as she was, I quickly realized that we didn’t have it all that bad. Her pneumothorax was fixable and we were looking at a matter of days before we got to take our precious baby home instead of months, like so many NICU parents. I felt guilty for being so consumed with my own emotions and self-pity that I failed to think of anyone but myself.

Upon this realization, I found myself praying more for the fellow NICU babies and families than my own. Don’t get me wrong, I still had emotional breakdowns from time to time and we seemed to take one step back with every two steps forward, but I was at peace with the situation.

Every hands-on time, blood gas test, removed tube, and day under the billi light was one step closer to putting the NICU behind us. Even though our NICU stay was relatively short, those 12 days were the longest days of my life. I’m an adrenaline junkie, but that rollercoaster was almost too much for me to handle.

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4 Responses to The Emotional NICU Rollercoaster

  1. Katelyn June 28, 2016 at 9:23 am #

    Wow this reading was exactly how I felt! I delivered my son at 34.5 weeks and he was in the NICU for 9 days. Everything you wrote about is how I felt! I also had preeclampsia. My son is now 4 months old and I continue to thank God everyday all day for letting me have a healthy happy baby!

    • Alana Livingston
      Alana Livingston June 28, 2016 at 10:25 am #

      Katelyn, I’m glad to hear that your baby is now thriving! I also thank God constantly for my healthy, happy baby! Our babies both had rough starts but I like to think God knew we could handle it!

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