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Going Home: Our NICU Experience

March 15, 2011 was a fantastic day. I was finally getting to take Christian home from the Vanderbilt NICU. But to get to that point was grueling, exhausting, and heart breaking.

To describe briefly the experience of having a child in a NICU, it's like watching someone you love be imprisoned. You know that them being there is what's best for them and that you really can't complain because they are being well cared for; But somehow, there is an emptiness in the pit of your stomach and sometimes you feel like just grabbing the prisoner and running out the doors as fast as you can. There is this constant pit in your stomach. That pit is caused by the lonely drives home every night. It's caused by the phone calls that you make at 2am when you wake up and start wondering what he's doing. And by every family you see out in public enjoying their baby.

Getting discharged from the hospital was a hard day. We packed our bags and the nurse wheeled me to my car. And as i got up from the wheelchair to get in the car, I remember looking in the backseat and seeing Christian's car seat, empty, and his diaper bag. We cried the whole way home. We had to leave our baby boy 60 miles away, and go home to an empty bassinet all ready to hold a sleeping baby, and a quiet house that should've been ringing with the sounds of a baby's cry, and it was hard.

I know Christian had to be in the NICU, and he needed to be there. But at the same time, I hated it. I wanted him home. I wanted to have a normal baby, and a normal experience. I wanted to take him to visit family, and cuddle up with him at night. I wanted to hold my baby and not have to worry about ripping his IV out. I wanted to lay beside Christian and not hear the constant beeping of his monitars. I wanted to be with him every second of the day.

And because he was in the NICU, I couldn't. I had to drive an hour and a half one way just to "visit" my son. I had to ask a nurse how his day had been. When he was hungry I had to ask someone to bring his food, I couldn't just go make him a bottle.  I felt like I wasn't really getting to be his mom and that i missed the first 25 precious days of Christian's life. I was stressed, and broken, and exhausted.

Before I was allowed to take him home, Vandy made me take a baby CPR class, a class to learn how to run his machines, and spend the night to take care of him for 24 consecutive hours, and it made me furious. I know it was all in Christian's best interest, but why did I have to go through so much extra hassle when I was already going through so much? It just didn't seem fair to add more burdens ontop of the burdens I was already carrying. I was already bitter because i didn't get to have a normal baby and I couldn't.

Finally though, the day came, and I was able to take my little boy home and try to begin to be a normal family. Of course, normal for us means weekly trips to Vanderbilt, eating through a feeding tube, and constantly tracking and planning doctor visits, surgeries, and procedures. But despite the fact that we will never get to be "normal," I think we're finding our place.

If I had to do it all over again, the only thing I might do differently is stay at Vanderbilt more. I regret not being there more than I was.

Christian's first NICU room.

Our first famiy photo, at 7 South Vandy NICU.


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