PARENTING
11/02/2016 11:24 am ET Updated Nov 04, 2016
PRESENTED BY MARCH OF DIMES

6 Parents Of Premature Babies Reveal What It Was Like When ‘Hospital Became Home’

When parents-to-be imagine life after the birth of their infants, the setting they envision is at home. However, for thousands of parents each year, their newborns spend their first days and even weeks in the world at the hospital; they may have been born too early, have an illness at birth, or are deemed too small and fragile for travel.

To shine a spotlight on the premature baby care that takes place in the neonatal intensive care unit, we partnered with the March of Dimes and spoke to mothers and fathers about life in the NICU. Their words and pictures reveal a world of stress and uncertainty, but one buoyed by hope. Read on to learn how these six brave parents worked with the hospital to help their children on the long road toward health and home.

  • “The NICU is a trek that can only truly be understood by those that have traveled it. You begin the trek as a completel
    Maureen Azize
    “The NICU is a trek that can only truly be understood by those that have traveled it. You begin the trek as a completely helpless parent. As the trek continues, you watch [your baby] open his fused eyes for the first time. You learn a new language: blood gas, oscillator peep, pip. You look forward to every glimpse of him without tape on his face. You cry tears of joy over his first poopy diaper because it means things are healing and working. You celebrate every ounce gained, and every milliliter of breast milk he takes. ... They say home is where the heart is. Our heart was in the neonatal intensive care unit for 118 days.” – Maureen Azize, CEO of Mama Made Inc.
  • “The hardest thing, of course, is giving birth and then going home without your baby. But when your baby spends extende
    Linda Haase Cohen
    “The hardest thing, of course, is giving birth and then going home without your baby. But when your baby spends extended time in the NICU, at some point the prospect of actually taking her home becomes terrifying. In the NICU, you only see uber-capable professionals expertly handle your newborn, and you know you're never going to be as capable as they are. … When you finally can take this impossibly perfect little person home, it seems surreal and almost extravagant. We were so grateful to have her home that we saw 2 a.m. feedings as a luxury.” – Linda Haase Cohen, Huffington Post Contributor
  • “Having my third son in [the] NICU for six weeks was the scariest, most challenging experience my wife and I have ever
    Damon Nailer
    “Having my third son in [the] NICU for six weeks was the scariest, most challenging experience my wife and I have ever encountered. Upon delivery I watched while the doctors frantically removed him from the room, which was gut-wrenching because we couldn't interact with him at all initially. I saw my son in an incubator with tubes entering almost every part of his body. He had a ventilator to assist him with breathing, his eyes had to be covered from all forms of light, and he could not drink anything but sugar water. I'm grateful to say he is now a healthy 12-year-old honor student who recently began running track.” – Damon Nailer, Author
  • “Giving birth is hard enough, and going home without your baby can feel like failure. My twins were born at 32.5 weeks.
    Katie DeCicco
    “Giving birth is hard enough, and going home without your baby can feel like failure. My twins were born at 32.5 weeks. They were so small, I was almost afraid to touch them. The nursing staff taught me everything I needed to know: how to feed them, change them and how to keep them on a schedule. I spent every hour they allowed at the NICU. When I would go home, I would wake up in the middle of the night with pain in my breasts and cry that my babies were still in the hospital. When they finally came home, I hovered over them because I no longer had machines to tell me they were OK. I have been extraordinarily lucky to have two healthy beautiful children.” – Katie DeCicco, CEO of Celebration Saunas
  • &ldquo;Even though the nurses said my babies needed me, I felt helpless and irrelevant. When I could finally do <a href="http
    Stefanie Wilder-Taylor
    “Even though the nurses said my babies needed me, I felt helpless and irrelevant. When I could finally do kangaroo care and hold my tiniest baby against my bare skin, it helped me feel more connected. But, truth be told, my real parenting didn’t begin until they were home. Looking back I know I did the best I could. I only wish I could’ve stopped trying to be perfect and just get myself prepared for the hurricane which is life with three children. ... My advice to anyone who has a kid in the NICU is that after you get them out, cheesecake makes a fabulous gift for the nurses and staff.” – Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, Author
  • &ldquo;Jaxson was born at 23 weeks and three days gestation. I didn&rsquo;t see him until four hours after he was born. I did
    Andrea Mullenmeister
    “Jaxson was born at 23 weeks and three days gestation. I didn’t see him until four hours after he was born. I didn’t hold him until 14 days later. He weighed 1 pound 8 ounces and spent 93 days in the NICU. Jax proved to me that, sometimes, the strongest people are the people you least expect to be strong. He was a tiny baby who barely weighed a pound … and he was in that incubator flapping his arms and moving his head and furrowing his brow; and he was fighting! He's 4 years old now and has a light that shines so bright. He's a non-stop action boy, always running, jumping and exploring. He keeps us laughing with his jokes and keeps us on our toes with his curiosity.” – Andrea Mullenmeister, Blogger at An Early Start

The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. For more than 75 years, parents and babies have benefited from March of Dimes research, education, vaccines and breakthroughs. Connect with us on our website to learn more about our new Give them tomorrow campaign, which unites the efforts of the March of Dimes, corporations, organizations and individuals to generate awareness and funding to fight birth defects and premature birth.

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