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Tom's Mom speaks out

I was so worried about Tom that I did not take good care of myself. I had a repeat cesarian section and was told that I would heal more quickly if I were to start walking as soon as I could. I, of course, went overboard. The first day I walked from my room to the NICU a dozen times. The next day I was walking all over the hospital. I was very anxious - and I didn't feel right laying around in bed while my son was in trouble. I stayed in the hospital as long as I could - trying to remain close to my son. After four days they released me.

The hospital provided counseling for all parents of infants in the NICU - and the man assigned to my case was quite helpful. The hospital had cottages nearby for people with gravely ill relatives in the hospital who were from out of town. As some of the rooms were available, I was allowed to take a room even though I was a local resident.

Leaving the hospital was very emotionally painful. For both of my previous births it was an exciting time. My family would come and gather all of the flowers, balloons, and cards as well as my belongings from my room. I would ride in a wheelchair with my infant in my arms - people everywhere peeking at the baby and smiling at me. My hubby would take tons of pictures of our baby leaving the hospital, in the car seat, and arriving at our home. It had always been a special joyous occasion.

This time leaving the hospital was all wrong. My family came in around 8:00 pm to gather my excess belongings and to visit Tom. I gathered what I would be needing in the hospital's cottages and waited. I had to leave by midnight - and I wanted to stay near my son as long as I could. At midnight I trundled down the stairs alone - heading for the cottages. It was a sad and lonely time for me.

Each cottage had a private phone line, and I made sure that the NICU had both my cottage number and my beeper number - and I requested that they call me to come for each feeding. The nurses suggested I try to get some rest - but I insisted that I needed to be with my son every moment he was awake.

More to say:

My son ate every four hours - so I was rarely in bed getting the rest I needed to recover from a major surgery. By the second night I was completely exhausted. Returning to my room after a feeding I tripped over a walkway stone and fell hard on my abdomen (ouch!). I checked my incision when I got into my room - but everything seemed to be ok, so I went to bed. A few hours later I woke to use the restroom - and discovered that I had just started bleeding from my surgical wound. I completely soaked a bath towel in less than a minute. I pressed a clean towel to my abdomen - and ran across the road to the hospital Emergency Room (ER). I had opened a third of my incision and they had to cauterize the wound to close it up.

Despite my accident - I still insisted on being at my son's side every moment I could. I had little money with me and was eating two small meals a day. I dropped over 27 lbs from the time of my son's birth to the time of his release seven days later. I became more and more exhausted, but I was still unwilling to let myself rest. I think now that I felt guilty - I felt that I must have done something during my pregnancy to cause Tom's problems. I was very impressed with the NICU nurses. They were compassionate, caring, and honest - and I had no doubt that they would take wonderful care of my son - but I just couldn't let go of my anxieties.

Two days later, I was visibly trembling and looked like death warmed over. The nurses would not let me hold Tom if I were standing - and they all seemed quite worried about me. I did not realize just how bad I had allowed things to get - but I was in terrible shape. I was leaving the cottage one afternoon, and I suddenly became dizzy and passed out. When I came to - I walked myself back over to the ER and checked in. The ER physicians spent seven hours doing test after test - and I remember next to none of it. I slept the whole time. They finally determined that I was suffering from complete exhaustion. I was finally able to admit that I was not Super-Mom and returned to my cottage for a 16 hour nap (LOL). After that - I was willing to let the nurses take the night feedings and I began to heal. When Tom was released from the hospital I was feeling well enough to take care of him, and home we went!

If you ever find yourself in a similar situation - do not put yourself last in your priorities. I could have served my son much better had I rested and been at my full mental faculties. It was very hard for me to let the staff take care of my son without me - but they did just fine.

I had a friend who had a baby prematurely - and her daughter and my son were in the NICU at the same time. She had the opposite reaction - she drew away from her child. This was her first - and she found the NICU extremely disturbing. After a short time with the hospital councilors she and her daughter bonded quite well. I have since read that this sort of response is just as common as mine was, so just do the best you can - we are all just human after all!