Preterm and in the NICU

Last Week's Blog > "All The Single Mothers, Put Your Hands Up!"

Asher was born 3 weeks and 2 days early. While in labor (after the epidural, thank goodness!), my OB/GYN warned me that Asher would be considered preterm and as a result a team of doctors from the NICU would need to examine him immediately. She would be unable to place him on my chest upon his birth, as I had hoped.

I was sad that I was going to miss out on that bonding moment. I hadn't experienced it after Atia's birth either; she was a c-section delivery. In addition to being sad, I was also scared. I was scared of giving birth vaginally. I was scared of Asher being preterm and what that meant.

The moment Asher was born my OB/GYN showed him to me, I kissed him and then she handed him over to the NICU team. The good news was that they didn't take him out of the room. My eyes never left him; I watched everything, though most of the time I could see nothing more than the nurses' and doctors' backs. It almost seemed like they were trying to block my view - creating a barrier - so that I couldn't see exactly what they were doing. There was a lot of whispering and mumbling, but no one told us what was going on.

Asher was quiet. He wasn't screaming or crying. I knew something was wrong. I could feel it. I kept asking, "Is he OK? Is he alright? Why isn't he crying?" My OB/GYN calmly assured me that everything was going to be OK.

She was right (or at least I thought she was right), because Asher started crying. I was so happy; I started crying. A few minutes later, one of the nurses brought him over to me and placed him in my arms. The feeling was magical; it was heaven.

It was short-lived.

The tests showed that Asher had some slight lung complications, and we were informed that he was going to have to be in the NICU overnight. I was disappointed and frightened. Yet again, we were dealing with medical issues...

While holding Asher and after hearing the news, I started feeling light-headed, my body started shaking and I couldn't breathe. Instantly, monitors began beeping and nurses began shouting. My OB/GYN frantically removed my legs from the stirrups and then the stirrups from the bed. Several doctors came running in and chaos ensued. They whisked Asher out of my arms and then began asking questions: How do you feel? What do you feel? Does anything hurt? Then they forcefully said, "Breathe, Laura, just breathe!" I began to panic; I didn't understand what was happening. All I knew was that I couldn't breathe...

Steve backed away and let the doctors do their job; he was terrified. They brought me food and water and sat me up. I'm not sure how long it was (it felt like forever), but slowly I began to breathe steadily and regain control; my body stopped shaking. The high-stress mood began to calm. It turned out that my blood pressure had plummeted. I was ordered to spend several hours in recovery under strict observation; Steve stayed with me.

When we finally left the labor and delivery room, we headed straight to the NICU (the nurse wheeled me down). It was the 1st time we'd seen Asher in hours. I was shocked by all the tubes, cords and monitors. It was really difficult for me to see him like that. I was afraid to touch him; I just stared at him.

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We stayed in the NICU for a while, but there wasn't much we could do - we couldn't hold him; we couldn't rock him; we couldn't touch him much. It was nearly 2:45 am and I needed to rest; it'd been a long and grueling day.

A whole litany of emotions was triggered as I laid there in my postpartum room, without my baby. I felt an almost suffocating sense of despair and emptiness. At that point, everything felt like a dream. Had I really just given birth? Was my son really in the NICU?

We were beyond exhausted and my hormones were raging, not to mention that I was in serious pain. Steve passed out on the couch that converted into a bed. And surprisingly (thanks to the medication), I slept really well that night too; I think my body and mind just shut down. It was too much to handle and my only escape was sleep. I guess that's the small silver lining - I was able to get a full night's sleep after just giving birth.

When we awoke the next day, we called down to the NICU for a status update. We were greeted with some exciting news - Asher's lung issues had cleared up and he no longer required support. I couldn't be more relieved. Yes!

However, in the next breath, we were told that his blood test results showed he had another issue and it was pretty serious. Asher had tested positive for an e.coli infection. It was an aggressive bacterium that required an equally aggressive treatment.

Next week's blog > "Two Weeks in the NICU"




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  • I had the same experience after labor---shook for what seemed a half hour and could not breath. I have never been so scared. I wasn't supposed to be unable to breath when I had just brought another human being into my life. They called the anesthisioligist but to this day I have no idea what hapenned. So when you were so adamant in having a vaginal birth, I always thought you could be in for a surprise. So tell me now, which one was worse--c section or vaginal?

  • That specific experience was horrible. I thought I was dying. Were you as scared as I was? There were pros and cons to each delivery type, but more cons with the c-section (in my opinion). In the near future, I hope to write a blog discussing and comparing the two.

  • I'm telling you, i thought I was dying as well. I had never felt that way. The shaking, the extreme shortness of breath (not being to breath period).

  • Laura, you are an amazing mama. I have no idea how you and your husband handled all the stress, but I only hope to be as strong as you. I read Ay Mama daily, but am sure to read it first thing each Tuesday morning to follow your story. Thank you for sharing. My son was also born 3 weeks early, but with complications that we knew about from 18 weeks into the pregnancy. He was able to spend the first 24 hours or so with us and then transferred to the NICU for 5 days and surgery. I hated being sent home without him and understand your feelings emptiness and of just staring and being afraid to hold him. Thank you for sharing your stories.

  • In reply to bradleykd2000:

    Thank you so much for being a loyal reader. I'm touched that you've been following my story so closely. It's always hard to know if anyone out there is actually reading what I write.

    It was certainly a very difficult time (which only got worse, as you'll learn in my upcoming entries). I'd never dealt with a newborn in the NICU. It was a scary place, even though all the doctors and nurses were great.

    I'm sorry to hear that you went through a similar experience. Asher never had to have surgery, but I can imagine the fear it caused. It's unnatural for a child so small to undergo such a procedure so big. I hope your son has fully recovery (as Asher has).

    Thank you for taking the time to write to me and for sharing YOUR story. It's funny, at the time we felt very alone in our experience, even though we were surrounded by several preterm infants and their frightened families. Now, I feel as though we're in good company - so many wonderful families I know have been touched by a NICU experience...

  • In reply to bradleykd2000:

    I remember this. How scary for you! I remember having the feeling of passing out with the C-section, but that was due to the meds I was given. That was so scary, the thought of everything going black. I felt my heart slow, too, and that was equally as terrifying. Ugh...what us women go through for those precious little God's gifts. :)

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