NICU part 2. A Dad’s Thank You.

A guest post from my incredibly well spoken husband.

On Friday April 27th at 6:34AM William Hayes Dorsey came barreling into the world after 36 long hours of labor that stressed him far more than any of us knew at the time.

This experience, more than any other in my life, has so pointedly laid bare the misconception that we’re capable of going it alone. Natasha and I had to lean on so many people – friends, family, and strangers to get through the last few weeks. We had a plan, we had an idealistic picture in our heads of how we wanted birth and the first few weeks of our child’s life to go. That all went out the window when we got the results of our non-stress test, which showed William had 20% less amniotic fluid around him than the minimum required level. As the nurses later put it, the placenta was past due on it’s 40 week warranty.

“Good news. I have your induction date… it’s today.” – Dr. Kim aka Superwoman

The labor we wanted – starting on it’s own, progressing naturally… well, that might be for baby #2. Our only goal was to get William out healthy as soon as possible. He arrived 5 days past due after a difficult labor with the cord around his neck. Who knows if any/all of that contributed to his shockingly low blood sugar and a week-long stay in the NICU, but that’s how things go. You think you’re in control and you’re really just along for the ride.

To be sure, we were so much more fortunate than other families in the NICU with babies much more sick than Will. I think about those families every day and hope with everything I have that they get to go home soon with happy, healthy babies. Until then, I hope they keep fighting. Through the ups and downs, I hope they know that there are people out there – strangers, passersby – thinking of them and wishing them strength and love through this terrible ordeal.

What follows is a set of thank you’s that are inherently inadequate in return for the amount of love, kindness, and support we’ve been shown by friends, family, professionals, and strangers throughout this process.

To Doctor Kim:

You made us so comfortable from the first time we met you. You exude confidence in every interaction and give your patients the confidence that you have everything under control, have thought through all the potential scenarios, and are supporting their goals as far as the medicine will allow. We could not be more grateful that you were our OB and that you were there for the full labor and delivery experience. It was not an easy one, with decelerations and multiple layers of treatment, but when everyone else got worked up, you were the calming force in the room, you were there to guide the way. You made us laugh, you made us feel safe. You were honest with us, you were supportive. At so many different points, it felt like things were getting away from us and there you were to get things back on track. What could have been a very bad experience was a great one – all because of you. Thank you. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.

To the well baby nurse who unwrapped Will and offered to change his diaper:

Thank you so much for being thorough and watchful in the execution of your job. You noticed his jittery little legs and ran a quick test that caught his incredibly low blood sugar. Without you, Will may never have received the care he needed.

“We know we’re no one’s first choice…” – Badass NICU nurse #792

To the NICU nurses:

What an exceptional group of human beings you are. You see people – parents and children – at their most fragile point in life. No one wants to be in the NICU, but I’ll be damned if there is a better group of people than NICU nurses. You all are brave, smart, compassionate, funny, and so much more. You carry families on your back through their darkest days. You care for the most innocent and fragile of lives like they are your own children. You care for new parents – parents who never thought of anything except a happy, healthy baby. You celebrate progress, you support set backs. You are optimistic, you are realistic. To say we couldn’t have done it without you is obvious, but it must be said. You might not be anyone’s first choice, but we wouldn’t want anyone else to help us through those late night feedings, the low readings, the critical labs, the slow progress, and eventually, finally, leaving. I’m sure there are terribly hard days, days I can’t stand to imagine, but you are the best of what we can be as humans. You show up shift after shift stronger than anyone knows. Thank you so much for everything you do.

To Molly:

Nothing we write here, say, or do, will ever repay what you have given our family or fully express the gratitude we feel for your love, compassion, and friendship to Natasha, myself, and William. I can’t start to catalog everything you’ve done for us, so hopefully it will suffice to say – thank you for the crackers 😉 We love you and look forward to every chance we get to see you.

To our parents:

Both sets of parents came to our rescue over and over again. To my parents – thank you for waiting tirelessly in waiting rooms during labor, delivery, and the NICU stay, for running out to get food repeatedly, for propping me up so I could be there for Natasha, and for coming back to lend a helping hand. To Nastasha’s parents – thank you so much for taking care of our home, for grocery shopping, and for being willing to drop everything and move into our apartment indefinitely while we were there with William.

To Kathryn and Drac:

Thank you for taking Juno in at a moment’s notice and continuing to extend her stay as conditions changed. Knowing she was in good hands meant the world to us and took so much stress out of the picture so we could be 100% present with William. We know she had a blast too.

To all the other friends we called and leaned on:

You brought food, you listed to us cry, you supported us, you offered us words of encouragement. Thank you – we can’t wait to see you soon.

To Natasha:

You are the strongest woman I’ve ever met; poised and graceful, able to weather any storm. You’re my light and my best friend. Our William is so lucky to have you as his mom, as I am to have you as my wife. Motherhood looks so natural on you. You are comfortable and confident, all the more the woman I fell in love with those year ago.

Lessons from the NICU

When I went in to be induced at 40 weeks & 3 days I was just so excited to meet my baby. Not a single ounce of me thought we wouldn’t take our full term son home for seven days. Instead of leaving the hospital two nights after my delivery, my husband & I would spend the next week sharing a 10×10 hospital room. We would wake every 2.5 hours to walk the 400 steps to the NICU to see our baby boy. After a difficult labor, lasting over 36 hours, our little boy had trouble maintaining his blood sugar levels & would spend the following week in the NICU trying to manage his sugar. This was not the plan. I had spent the previous 40 weeks with an otherwise seamless pregnancy, each scan & blood test giving us reassurance that everything was on track.

Our time spent in the NICU taught me more than I ever realized. During that week, we lived in 3 hour blocks. Just waiting for the next blood sugar check, verifying how his dextrose infusion was being titrated, waiting on critical labs to return. The first few days I was somewhat in denial that this was my reality. The ER nurse in me kept thinking “they’ll stabilize his sugar & he’ll be back in our post partum room & we’ll be right on track to go home”. It soon became clear he was going to be there longer than we had imagined & that we were going to have a NICU baby. We were joining an exclusive club no parent wants to be a member of, a club that puts you on a crash course of endless love & fierce protection for this little life you created. Below is some of what I learned from that week.

Look for silver linings anywhere and everywhere: This was huge for us, it kept us floating. Our silver linings were anything from a solid blood sugar reading this hour, to taking advantage of the fact that our little boy was being put on a regimented schedule & was learning to self soothe in the middle of the night since the nurses couldn’t immediately run to him or that he was learning to simultaneously breastfeed & bottle feed. All of these silver linings would be things we’d be thankful later!

Take the help: This is as simple as it sounds. Take people up when they offer to bring you things from the store, clothes from home, keep your dog an extra night (or 5!). One night my best friend & Chris’ brother came over in between feedings & we ordered pizza to our room. People desperately want to help you. Let them. Everyone will feel better.

Sometimes Cuddles Are Enough – One night when we were in the NICU for a feeding & Will wasn’t doing the best at breastfeeding a nurse reminded us that sometimes just holding your baby & being in the moment is plenty. Even though we wanted each feeding to be a great success to help with his blood sugar it realistically wasn’t going to perfect every time. So she encouraged instead of putting pressure on every feeding, to relax & just let him lay with us & know that being on us was just as powerful as any IV infusion. He was gaining comfort & love & security all things he would need to get better.

Feel the warmth: Something that struck me right off the bat being in the NICU was how much warmth there was. As an ER nurse I’d say warmth can be hard to find in an emergency department, however there’s no shortage of it when it comes to the people who dedicate their lives to caring for tiny humans. My recommendation is to let yourself feel it. As someone who doesn’t readily accept hugs from strangers, I found myself gladly taking the hugs from nurses I had just met.

Prepare for setbacks: This lesson sucks. But inevitably you’ll take two steps forward and one step back & it’ll sting.  Honestly we weren’t prepared until we had our first major set back & it totally crushed us. A part of me felt guilty for feeling so crushed, when I looked around & saw babies on ventilators, or babies too sick to be held. I felt guilty for feeling so knocked down when our baby wasn’t close to being the sickest one there. Just know set backs will happen & it’s okay to cry, but know that it’ll get better. When we’d walk to the NICU for another feeding we’d talk about potential set backs & prepare ourselves for a low sugar & just talking about it being an option helped.

Think big: This became our motto before every blood sugar check. I’ve always believed in sending out good energy into the universe & as much as we mentally prepared for setbacks I think it’s equally important to be positive & to “think big thoughts”. Even though doctors & nurses are watching over, your baby needs you to believe in them & to be their cheerleader, now more than ever.

Do normal things. Walk outside. Listen to music. Shower. It’s amazing how a hot shower, or a walk around the block helped. It’s important to try to bring some normalcy to a very abnormal situation. There was a Starbucks one block from the hospital so we’d try to go for an afternoon walk & get a coffee. It felt so strange to walk outside & remember there is a whole world outside of the windowless walls of the NICU where our whole world lay in an isolet. I really believe those little pockets of normalcy kept us going, as did the afternoon coffees!

Support Each Other:  I would not have been able to make it through this experience without my husband. At various points we each had to be the person to pick the other one up. We knew our son needed us & he needed us to be in a good place. Who ever your support person is, let them support you. And return the favor when they need it. Celebrate the baby steps together, cry when you need to.

Lastly,

Know the NICU isn’t anyone’s first choice. No ones birth plan includes a week long stay in the NICU, ours certainly didn’t. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be & it’s okay to be upset about that. No one will truly understand unless they’ve been through it. The simultaneous urge to fiercely protect your baby paired with the total lack of control over the situation can make even the strongest people weak. For some reason I’ll never know, this was our journey. Having made it out on the other side I’m thankful for the lessons it taught me & how it forever shaped me as a mother. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the feeling of getting to dress our baby in his first outfit & walk out those double doors. The bitter-sweetness of being so incredibly thankful for the hearts that took such good care of him that week, but wishing all the babies got to go home.

If you stumbled onto this post because you’re going through a similar journey my heart aches for you. It aches for all the moms & dads that don’t get to walk out those doors with their babies like they planned.

^moments before we walked out of the NICU

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Will’s Newborns

What better way to spend an afternoon than with your best friend posing your newborn in various outfits & backgrounds! Will totally took it like a champ & let us get a lot of shots of him & I’m in LOVE with all of them. It was so hard to pair them down. They’re only this little once, so you have to capture it. Needless to say we are so thankful to be home than in the NICU & I must say everyone is adjusting nicely.

William Hayes

At 40weeks & 3 days I was induced after a non stress test showed low amniotic fluid levels. After enduring 36 hours of labor our sweet boy, William Hayes Dorsey, made his debut last Friday 4/27 at 6:34am. We are so in love with our little guy. He was under stress throughout my labor & spent the last week in the NICU, but I am thrilled to report as of Friday we are home with a happy healthy boy!