I am going to begin by saying this…
I am beyond grateful for the medical care and compassion Mckenna received during her hospitalization in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit…
… But I lost a lot of firsts to the NICU. The nurses of the NICU were the first to hold Mckenna, care for Mckenna, and spend the most time with Mckenna in the first week of her life. While most moms’ (and dads’) are able to bring home their newborn babies just 48 hours after birth, Mckenna had to stay eight days in the NICU and I have to go back and forth to visit her. Now, I do intend for this to sound negative because I knew my Fetal Cardiologist sought to ensure overall Mckenna was stable and healthy enough to go home; it’s just a hard concept to accept for a first-time mom, who just wanted “normalness” for the new life of her baby.
I formed jealously towards other moms who got to experience the normal hospital stay with their babies beside them in their bassinettes the entire time. That bond is started immediately. I did not have that. The night I had Mckenna, I had to spend the night in the hospital alone, without Mckenna.
Seeing Mckenna for the First Time
The first time I held Mckenna was when she was settled in the NICU was around 6pm. I waited so long to see her because I was undeniably exhausted. I hadn’t slept the night/morning before Mckenna was born, didn’t have anything to eat, and for the obvious reason, I had just given birth, was cut open below (I had to have an episiotomy), and sewn shut with stitches. The amount of pain I was in is indescribable.
I finally built up the strength to go through with seeing Mckenna. A nurse arranged for a volunteer to bring me over to the NICU (it’s in a completely different building than the hospital I was resting in). On our way there, my stomach was in knots and it was doing summersaults. I was so enthusiastic to see my beautiful little bundle. I had already forgotten what she looked like from that morning, and I felt empty without her in my belly.
Entering the NICU was a complete haze. I don’t remember what was going on around me. I just remember when we first entered, I washed my hands.
Then, all I could focus on was my daughter. It’s funny, because when the volunteer pushed me into the unit, I didn’t know where Mckenna’s bedside area was, but as I entered, ‘something’ guided my eyes to her bed. And there she was, in bed #4 that was in the front corner across from the nurse’s desk. I picked her out in the room of 22 bedsides and babies.
I hobbled over to the side of her incubator, and at that moment time stood still. No noises were heard, and nothing registered in my brain; only the moments of being face to face with my beautiful daughter. Euphoria took over, and I started to cry. I cried the warmest tears. I stood there, leaning over top of her incubator for minutes, motionless. I was in awe. I grew this beautiful little baby, waited long nine months, and now she was here, lying in front of me.
Shortly after, Mckenna’s nurse for the night shift walked up beside me with my wheelchair and guided me to sit. I still could not take my eyes off Mckenna.
Mckenna’s nurse then asked “would you like to hold her?” I couldn’t comprehend what was about to happen. There was so much excitement rushing through my veins; I was about to hold MY daughter!!! I remember being so panicky because I hadn’t ever held a newborn baby.
She picked up my beautiful little Mckenna and placed her in my shaky arms. I looked down at Mckenna and starred. Heavy tears poured down my puffy cheeks. And that was in that moment I fell in love with Mckenna. I could not stop looking at her. Everything about her was perfect; beyond perfect. She was an angel, like nothing I had ever seen before. She was so warm, and bundled flawlessly in a white polka doted flannel receiving blanket. Her face was so perfect, and I couldn’t stop kissing her lips. I buried my nose into her neck. I don’t remember anyone around us for minutes. She smelled amazing; she had the “new baby smell”, but she smelled so much sweeter. So much love was felt in that moment, and it is a moment cherish forever. I am forever grateful I was able to have that moment with Mckenna.
Arriving home from the hospital without Mckenna was one of my toughest days I have had. I was already feeling empty, not feeling her pokes and movements in my belly, but now I physically did not have the love of my life at home with me. Her room was set up for her, but she was not home to sleep in it. Our house had an odd atmosphere every day she wasn’t home. It was quieter. Empty. I could not stop crying. I missed my daughter, and all I wanted was her home with me.
Hours after arriving home, emotions took over and I collapsed on our living room floor. I didn’t want to have to go on any further knowing she wasn’t at home with me. That, was a tough day.
The toughest day for me while Mckenna stayed in the NICU was the day the World lost a beautiful baby boy, born at 36 weeks, whose bed was across from Mckenna’s. As I type this, my eyes are building up with tears, but I want to share this because this is real experience, and this is what I have to cope with on my hard days.
I was sitting and holding Mckenna as I always did; at this point Mckenna had already been in the hospital for four days. When I arrived in the morning, the little boy was already in a bedside area across from Mckenna. When I walked in, there was a variety of 10-12 nurses / doctor’s hovering over-top of this baby boy’s incubator. I tried not to look, but it’s anyone’s instinct to look, and I knew something had to be really wrong with him.
All morning, I kept hearing several nurses say “he is not responding”. Every day I always held Mckenna tight, but this morning there was a dark cloud over our section of the unit, and I couldn’t help but hold Mckenna even tighter.
When they opened up and brought over the floating walls on wheels to his bedside area, my heart sank. It began to get louder in that corner, and more nurses and doctors piled in our little quadrant. Nurses were shouting out numbers, demands, and orders.
His dad kept coming in and out of the department to get updates that he could relay to his wife; eavesdropping on the previous conversations, his wife had had a C-section and she was recovering, and in a lot of pain back at the Women’s Hospital.
It got louder, and louder until I heard a nurse shout “START CPR… 1, 2, 3… 1, 2, 3… 1, 2, 3”. This went on for a few minutes.
Then suddenly, everyone went silent. I knew what had happened. I choked up, and brought Mckenna so close to my heart. I dropped my head and prayed.
When they told his dad, he took the news well, bearing in mind what just happened. I could hear the sorrow and sadness in his voice as he tried to be strong for his wife and two other children. He was the one who had to relay the heartbreaking news to his family.
I heard the nurses and doctor’s begin to tidy up his bedside area. The charge nurse poked her head into Mckenna’s bedside area and asked if I was okay. She apologized that I had to witness that, as well.
All I could say was as I sobbed, “no, please don’t apologize to me, I am okay, my heart just goes out to their family”.
Once he was bundled, his dad picked him up, and brought him to his mom, who was in another area.
I sobbed as I held Mckenna tightly to my chest and I prayed. All the sympathy I had in my soul went to that family, and still does to this day. I prayed for their family. I prayed that their baby was no longer in any pain, and that he was safe where he was. I prayed and thanked Him for Mckenna; for being able to have her alive and well.
That experience really changed me as a person and a mom. I got to hold and love my baby, and she didn’t. My heart still aches for his family, especially his mom. Those parents had to explain to their two younger children why their baby brother didn’t come home from the hospital. I can’t even imagine the courage it took those parents to explain that.
The nurses and doctors that make up the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit are truly incredible human beings. They are not only nurses, but they have to experience the emotional roller coasters that the parent’s do with their baby being cared for in the NICU. They are heroes.
I wish I could remember the little boy’s name, but unfortunately I can’t, so I refer to him as “Mckenna’s Neighbor”.
May Mckenna’s Neighbor rest in peacefully, and always know he was loved so much by his family, and that he will be deeply missed. Let him know he heart an impression on my heart, and I will value and cherish forever. Hold him and comfort him when he misses his mom, and tell him everything is okay. In His name, Amen.
From my heart to yours,
- d ♥