Day 1 into our NICU journey started off with the neonatologist in our room at 6:30a to give us an update from the night. Carter had an issue with the breathing tube around 4:30a, and they had to put him on another one, which he seemed to be taking much better. He'd only been alive about 7 hours and already had his first issue. Is this how it's going to be until he gets out of the NICU?
It was an incredibly emotional and tough day for Dan and I. We were just trying to hang on and figure out how to manage the overwhelming experience. Throughout the first part of the morning, our room was like a revolving door. Nurses, doctors, lactation specialists… Every time someone walked in I would just cry.
Walking into the NICU was much different this time then the brief moment I saw him the night before. I actually took notice of what was happening around him this time, since I had a couple hours of sleep and could comprehend more of what was going on.
Carter was in an incubator with a blue (bili) light, monitors, tubes, lines, IVs, the ventilator, wires… it is an overwhelming experience. No one told me what I was walking into or what to expect. I didn't have time to do any research, I didn't even know this was going to happen. I knew each piece of equipment and everything attached to him had a purpose, but it is hard to get past all of the thoughts as to why he's attached to so much. He was on a 2:1 nurse ratio that day.
I put my eyes on Carter and didn't know whether to smile or cry. I wanted to smile because that was our baby boy - the miracle we've always wanted. I couldn't help but cry because of the unknown. I put my hands in the incubator and touched his feet, his hands, and recounted his fingers and toes. He squeezed my finger. My heart was so full. I didn't move my finger until he let go. I knew that he knew I was there. It was his feeding time, which you can imagine for a 1 pound 8 ounce baby is not a lot. The nurse asked me if I wanted to give him some of the milk I had pumped already. I lit up - of course I do. She put some milk on a very small instrument. I put it in his mouth and around his lips, and he went crazy! He loved it. I was smiling ear to ear.
Every time there was a beep, a strange noise or a monitor went off, my heart dropped. The nurse would immediately attend to him. What was happening? We realized very quickly that we would have to get used to the noises and not panic every single time. Carter had his ups and downs throughout the day, as they had to make many adjustments so he could get used to the new controlled environment outside the womb. The doctor and nurses told us they were very pleased with how well he's doing, especially for his age. Our nurses enjoyed how much of a fighter he was being; they said they didn’t see that often.
Day one was a challenge I'll never be able to fully explain. We were both devastated, praying to wake up from this nightmare. Although our sweet Carter was here, we felt too numb and broken. Why us? Why Carter? Where did we go wrong? Was he going to make it? When will he come home? I was so worried about Dan. He's usually always stronger than me, but I knew he was just as broken as I was. The day was filled with many tears, break downs, feelings of guilt, pain, and devastation - so many feelings and thoughts for both of us. I was still in shock. It's like we were in a nightmare or out of body experience - it couldn't be real. It was very real. We were in the worst moments of our lives - our son was fighting for his life every minute. I thanked God Carter was so strong and such a fighter. It was the only thing that was giving me a small glimmer of hope.