Life in the NICU
We became very
familiar, even comfortable, with the NICU during Thomas' four
month stay. We assisted with his feedings and with
anything else the staff would allow us help with. We learned what to
watch for (and what to ignore) on the monitors that he was
connected to 24 hours a day. Basically, we learned how to be NICU
parents following the example set by the other parents we saw in
Thomas was fed breast milk through a small tube (see picture
this page). The tube was passed down his throat by the nurses,
directly into Thomas' stomach. Babies at this stage have no gag
reflex, so it is not thought to be uncomfortable for them. At
this point, he was too immature to be able to "suck, swallow
and breath" the way a more mature baby would to accomplish
When Thomas was first born, we were told of the advantages of
feeding preemies breast milk and encouraged to provide it for
him. Natalie rented a special breast pump and began pumping her
breasts every 3 or 4 hours. She was instructed to save all of it,
even if she only got a little. The milk was marked with Thomas'
name and the date, then frozen and put into storage.
My wife's persistence made it possible for Thomas to receive
breast milk, exclusively, for the first seven and a half months
of his life.
Having a baby in the hospital completely disrupts your life.
We ate out, ordered take out, or ate one of the care packages we
received from well wishers, most every night of the week. We had
little time for normal things like cooking dinner. We use to make
light of the situation and joke that we had the best day care
money could buy and could still go out anytime we wanted. What we
really wanted, of course, was a healthy baby and a return to a
somewhat normal life.
For the first ten weeks of Thomas' life, his mother was on
maternity leave and able to devote herself to Thomas 100%.
Knowing she was at the hospital everyday made it easier for me to
go to work. I knew that she would call with updates and progress
reports if anything exciting happened. Then every day after work,
I would go directly to the hospital and stay for about an hour or
We found the first five weeks of Thomas' hospitalization the
hardest. He gained weight very slowly after dropping to as low as
1 pound 6 ounces two days after his birth. Everyday we would
visit, but he would always seem the same. People would
continuously ask if he weighed 2 pounds yet. Our answer was
We were assured by the nursing staff that he was doing great
and that progress would come before we knew it. We knew the
nursing staff had seen this all before and tried to trust what
they were telling us. They were right, of course, but it was hard
to see it at the time.
Next: Tommy Gets Off the Respirator