Charlie’s NICU FAQ

I’ve received a lot of similar questions over the past week, and I know those who haven’t asked are probably wondering lots of the same things, too. So, thought I’d share a little FAQ :).

1. When will Charlie come home?

We ask ourselves that daily. There is no clear cut answer yet. Most babies go home between 36-38 weeks gestation. (He is 33w3d as of today.) So, we really hope within the next 3-5 weeks. There is no real medical intervention to get him home sooner. The milestones he has to hit before he is released are entirely up to him and are maturity driven rather than health driven so to speak. To take him home, he needs to be able to meet milestones such as regulate his own body temperature, be free of any jaundice issues, and most importantly, he needs to be eating well. Eating is the hardest thing because it requires multitasking and lots of energy – swallowing, sucking and breathing all at once. So while we are insanely lucky he is so healthy, he still really needs that extra time he would have had in the womb to grow and mature and be able to handle the task of eating a full day’s worth of meals on his own.

2. Why was he born so early?

No clue and we likely never will have an answer. It’s probably just some random malfunction in my own body and actually is what happened with my first pregnancy, too, it was just way too early to do anything for it then (my water breaking). Any future pregnancies I’d be under the care of a perinatologist (high risk doc) for close monitoring and would likely be given some additional hormone support to try to keep my baby in there as long as possible without another rupture. (Though, of course, right now having more babies sounds incredibly terrifying and out of the question, so we’ll see about that!)

2. Why is Charlie on a feeding tube?

A couple of reasons. Being born at 32 weeks, his little tummy wasn’t quite primed yet to digest food. And, also at 32 weeks, he wasn’t ready to know how to breath, swallow and suck all on his own in unison. First, they very slowly tested his tummy with drops of milk. As he tolerated it and digested it, they increased his intake over every other feeding until he reached the full amount he needs per feeding. To make up for the nutrients he wasn’t getting, they also had IV fluids for him with the right mix of minerals and electrolytes for his system. (We’re happy to report that as of yesterday, he is on milk 100% and his IV line was removed!)

3. How often can you see him?

The NICU allows parents to visit 24/7 except for one hour in the morning and again in the evening while they are doing their report hand offs at shift changes. While that sounds nice to see him whenever we want, it still doesn’t quite work like that. First, it’s not feasible to take care of my own needs (sleep and eat) when I am at his bedside for hours on end. Second, he’s in there for a reason (to rest and grow) and lots of stimulus tires him out very quickly. So, while daily visits from us are very important, he also needs a lot of down time. I visit for about 3-4 hours a day and He Who Shall Not Be Named goes by once a day pending his work schedule.

4. Well, at least you have some time yet before bringing baby home and missing out on sleep, right?

No, actually, quite the opposite. I’m pumping exclusively right now to produce milk for him in the hospital and so I have a supply and can nurse when he’s ready. I’m up every 2-4 hours around the clock doing this, just as if I had my newborn at home requesting to eat. So, not only am I just as sleep deprived and strung out as a new mom, it also isn’t from the natural order of things and it definitely has an added emotional obstacle to contend with.

5. How can we help you?

Honestly, I just want people to treat us as if we just had a baby. Because, we did. Just because he isn’t home, doesn’t mean we’re not dealing with the same struggles as new parents. It’s ok to ask us about him, it’s MORE than ok, because we love to brag about how cute and sweet he is. I’m also dealing with the same postpartum emotions and sleep deprivation, on top of missing my baby most of the day, so I might not be good about responding to messages or perhaps might sound shorter than I typically do.

If anyone is curious about anything else, please let me know. I’m happy to answer questions – the ones I have answers to. We likely will only have a few days notice of our own before he comes home.

In the meantime, thanks for all your support and patience during this time. While we are overjoyed at having such an awesome, healthy baby . . . there is also a lot of grief involved (mostly on my end being his mama) about not having the birth experience I had hoped for – mainly, bringing him home with us right away. A NICU stay was certainly no where on our radar.

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