The NICU experience
NICU families are supported by the hospital's care team, and each other
When your baby is in the NICU, the staff becomes your family.
Starting with the medical assistants that greet you, to the registered nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, pediatricians, neonatologists, nutritionists and respiratory therapists — they are all a part of the care team.
Rounds occur every day with the team members. Each member spends time with your baby and provides input as to how to best help your child survive and thrive.
There are also the other families in the NICU you connect with because they understand the journey you are on. Social media has proven a tremendous asset in keeping us connected with our NICU families, especially now when we can’t show off how big the kids are and how well they’re doing in person.
We experienced two drastically different NICU environments. Dartmouth-Hitchcock in Lebanon is where Carter started his journey. They take the sickest of sick because they are a Level 4 NICU. Their floor is set up in pods, so babies with similar challenges, birth gestations, etc. are grouped together.
You don’t have a choice but to connect with those around you. Sitting next to an isolette is so lonely; having people around you can be a true blessing.
In these pod surroundings you are always in a heightened state because you constantly hear everything going on around you. The constant dinging of alarms never leaves you. It is hard to find a quiet space to escape when you are trying to nurse or pump.
Dartmouth isn’t a live-in facility, so I stayed in a community house on their campus. I cannot express how thankful we are that this housing was available to us. David’s House is an amazing organization and if you ever are looking to make a charitable donation, look them up! They provided our family with a room to sleep in, a shared bathroom and kitchen, and saved us money on meals and transportation.
My husband, Chris, had to return to work a week or so after Carter’s birth, so having this option to stay here was a blessing.
Once Carter was strong enough, we could transfer him to a “step-down” nursery closer to home.
Catholic Medical Center’s special care nursery is one-of-a-kind. CMC in Manchester offers private rooms. At first it was so scary, quiet and lonely. But once we grew into it, the setup was where our babies (Aubrey did her NICU stay here as well) truly thrived.
The private rooms are designed to mimic a womb, because premature babies still need the necessities they would have received in utero. The rooms were quiet, which helps keep the stimulation down for everyone. Nursing and pumping was easier without an audience, and the rooms could be kept darker just like a womb. I was able to stay with both of the babies when the time came for us to work toward going home.
I stayed with Carter almost his entire stay at CMC. I knew the entire staff and they treated me like one of their own. Some of these women, without a doubt, helped shape the mother I am today. They saved me during some of my darkest days.
Families typically get to know their nurses best. They are the closest to the baby and family, and are a critical stepping stone in the NICU journey.
For all the nurses reading this, you all are the true heroes. I cannot imagine being in the NICU during a pandemic or what it’s like trying to manage caring for these vulnerable patients and managing protocols etc. We thank you all from the bottom of our hearts. Nurses are true, live heroes.
Lauren Martone is a blogger for ParentingNH from southern New Hampshire. You can contact her at email@example.com. Lauren and her family’s story were featured in the July 2015 issue of ParentingNH, and also in the July 2018 issue.