It’s been 2 years since my premature baby was born. Time has flown by, but I can still remember taking care of my NICU preemie as if it were yesterday. The day-to-day rush, the angst, the small victories. The baby steps.
Oliver spent 43 days in the NICU. Oh, boy were they hectic! We had to keep a strict routine, and since we weren’t allowed to sleep in the hospital, we kept it to the minute. Our routine was what kept us going!
Most of my friends and a part of my family thought, with innocent insensibility, that having a NICU preemie meant sleeping through the night and having tons of free time.
And, though having a premature baby has been the best experience of my life so far, those first days were spent in a rush at all times!
6:00 – 6:30 a.m.: Morning Pump!
Ah! To wake up and pump… In order to maintain my milk supply, it was important to pump to a scheduled.
I sterilized my pump before bedtime the day before so all I had to do was to get it out of the freezer and pump away.
Before anything, though, I called the hospital to make sure my NICU preemie had had a good night.
6:30 – 8:00 a.m.: Getting Ready for the Day
I had to leave my house at 8:00 a.m. sharp!
So my husband and I rushed through our daily routine. True, it takes a lot less than an hour and a half to get us ready, but we had to take a bath, pack food, drinks, and clothes for the NICU, my husband had to pack an additional shirt.
We also had to grab breakfast, quickly clean the house, and wash our clothes. All of it in the first 2 hours of the morning (my husband woke up at 6:00 a.m. bless him!)
8:30 – 9:00 a.m.: Good Morning to my NICU preemie!
The NICU that my premature baby was in opened from 8:30 am to 8:30 pm. So, naturally, I was at their door at 8:30 a.m. every morning.
I would leave my stuff in the locker in the mom’s area and rush to see my baby. At first, I could only look at him inside his incubator, but after two weeks I could hold his hands.
I would sing a good morning song to him (Up&Up by Coldplay), tell him how much I missed him, and assured him we’d have lots of fun that day!
9:00 – 9:30 a.m.: Pumping / Breastfeeding my NICU preemie
At first, I could only pump, so that’s what I did.
Ollie started breastfeeding at one month old. When he could breastfeed I still had to maintain a pumping schedule to store milk for the NICU. But I wasn’t going to miss my morning bonding time!
9:30 – 9:45 a.m.: Water break!
Yes, I had water breaks. Yes, I had them scheduled.
I usually ate a light snack too. If I didn’t explicitly include a “water break” tab in my schedule, I didn’t drink much water.
Although I sipped water throughout the day, I drank one litter during each of my water breaks and one litter at lunch (go milk supply!)
9:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.: Kangaroo time!
My favorite time of the day!
I held Ollie skin-to-skin for more than two hours! It was my favorite NICU preemie time.
We snuggled and comforted each other into a deep sleep. Sometimes we also read Harry Potter or The Little Prince.
The best hours were whenever I was doing kangaroo time. It all felt right with the world.
12:00 – 1:00 p.m.: Pumping / Breastfeeding in the NICU
When Oliver couldn’t breastfeed I would pump every three hours.
During our noon nursing, I would also hold him until he fell asleep again and put him safe and warm back into his incubator.
The NICU then closed for parents until 2:30 p.m. so I briefly said goodbye to my baby, too.
1:00 – 2:00 p.m.: Lunch break
I ate the lunch I brought from home, drank some coffee without caffeine and a big bottle of water.
Usually, I sparked a nice conversation with other NICU moms or with nurses.
I called my hubby to give him a midday report about our NICU preemie, and learned about his day, too.
2:00 -2:30 p.m.: Nap time
Before it started all over again I would pamper myself with a little nap.
I slept on the couch in the parents’ lounge, it was really comfortable! And, when other moms weren’t watching TV at full volume (ugh…), I could catch a deep, nice nap!
2:30 – 3:00 p.m.: Story Time!
Before I had to go pump, or it was Ollie’s time to eat, we had some storytime. Ollie has always loved stories, Harry Potter and The Little Prince were my favorites!
3:00 – 4:00 p.m.: Pumping / Breastfeeding in the NICU
I would normally do both nursing and pump within this hour.
Ollie would nurse for the first half-hour, then I’d rush to the pumping room to leave him milk for the night. It was a bit exhausting and after it, I felt drained and dehydrated, but happy.
4:00 – 4:15 p.m.: Water break!
The afternoon’s water break was my favorite break.
I normally had friends or family drop in to ask about our NICU preemie. They weren’t allowed in the NICU (only grandparents on Thursdays), so they visited me instead!
4:15 – 6:00 p.m.: Kangaroo time!
The second kangaroo time just before pumping. I usually read to Ollie during the afternoon skin-to-skin. Still my favorite hours!
6:00 – 6:30 p.m.: Pumping!
At 6:00 p.m. my husband usually arrived at the hospital and bottle-fed Oliver.
In order to give them a bit of privacy and to leave milk for the night, I pumped in the pumping room!
6:30 – 7:00 p.m.: Storytime with daddy
My husband made up his own funny stories and songs and entertained both Oliver and me with them.
This half-hour was perfect! The three of us would just sit and relax before the NICU closed for another hour to change shifts and perform routine procedures.
7:00 – 8:00 p.m.: NICU closed to change shifts
While the NICU changed shifts, my husband and I got some coffee, watched Netflix, and chatted about our day.
We hated being away from Oliver, but we were forced to so we made the best of it. Since we didn’t have that magic family time at night we had it in the hospital. We truly made a second home there.
8:00 – 8:30 p.m.: Time to Say Goodnight!
This was the saddest moment of the day for us.
Time to say goodnight to our baby. It didn’t get easier with time. Leaving Oliver there was sad and downright scary, most days he was looking at us, alert and awake as if he too was saying goodnight.
We had to leave him for 43 days, and it broke our hearts every day.
9:00 – 10:00 p.m.: Dinner Time!
Once we got home we got dinner and called the NICU to check on Oliver.
It was usually quiet since we both missed him so much and worried about him. There’s one thing that, as parents to a NICU preemie, we can’t force ourselves to do, and that is to take our son’s health for granted.
We honestly didn’t know what we’d found the next morning. Even now, it gets hard to understand that he is healthy now. So being away from him brought a lot of anxiety for us.
10:00 – 10:30 p.m.: Pumping!
After dinner, I had to pump to maintain my milk flow and get the supply ready for when Ollie came home. Fun times!
10:30 p.m. – 1:00 a.m.: Sleeping!
I called the NICU again and sterilized the pump before sleeping. After that, we went to bed, I had to set my alarm clock for 1:00 a.m. though since I couldn’t go all night without pumping.
1:00 – 1:30 a.m.: Midnight Pump!
The last pump of the day (or first of the morning).
I had to set up the pump and I tried to sleep while it was doing its work. My husband did turn it off and sterilize it for my morning pump, though.
We also called the NICU to check on Oliver because we couldn’t go back to sleep if we didn’t.
That’s a Wrap
There you have it, that was what our days back then were like.
Looking back, it was comforting to have a routine, and, though we hated that our NICU closed for parents, we made our best to relax. That way we had full batteries the next time we saw our boy.
All NICUs are different and have their own schedules, this was just ours. There are hospitals where you can even sleep with your NICU preemie! (Joy!)