Parents with a newborn sent to the hospital’s Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) often describe the experience as an emotional roller coaster. Nothing can quite prepare a mother’s heart for this type of experience. One Saline mother, Sara Austin, shares her story of what it was like to have her newborn child stay in the NICU at The University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.
Austin and her husband, Graig, have three children: Melia, Kailyn, and Abby. Firstborn Melia’s birth was a typical vaginal birth,, which is what Austin envisioned for her next birth. She couldn’t have imagined that at just 25 weeks into her pregnancy, her water would break, relegating her to bed rest for two weeks at C.S. Mott. At 27 weeks and 5 days, baby Kailyn was born via C-section, weighing just 2 pounds and 2 ounces.
Austin remembers that fragile emotional time. When Kailyn was born, “the nurse held up tiny Kailyn for me to see and immediately rushed her off to get stabilized in another part of the hospital. It was such an emotional time because we did not know if our baby was going to live or die,” Austin said. Kailyn’s story ended miraculously. After staying in the NICU for 101 days, Kailyn came home and is now a happy and healthy 9-year-old girl.
Austin offers encouragement for other families:
- Draw support from family and friends. Find a support group that can help out with the little things. For Austin, “the support of family and our church family that offered warm meals, provided emotional support, and helped take care of our older daughter was so helpful”.
- Focus on your faith. Sara and her family leaned on their faith to get them through this uncertain time.
- Stay positive. It was challenging not to think of all of the worst-case scenarios. “The hospital nursing staff did a wonderful job to prepare us emotionally before Kailyn was born if the outcome was terminal or if she was born with special needs. We tried to continue to celebrate the small accomplishments. Staying positive throughout the whole process really helped give us hope,” Austin explained.
- Try “pumping rewards.” It ischallenging and difficult to stay motivated to pump daily when you are unable to breastfeed your baby. To give her the motivation, she took a bag of M&M’S® with her to treat herself while she pumped. Find a motivation reward, like a fun treat.
- Let yourself be emotional. “There were a couple of times where it seemed pretty hopeless and we thought we were going to lose Kailyn. It is okay to cry and just let it out,” Austin remembered.
- Find other NICU families. Connect with others who have been in the same situation because they can empathize with the emotions and lend support.
Hand to Hold is a non-profit organization that carefully matches seasoned parents of preemies with parents in need of support with the experience of preterm birth, life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, a child born with special health care needs, loss of pregnancy and/or infant loss.
Visit handtohold.org to learn more.