The possibility of needing the NICU is not usually something you think about before you start your family. My husband and I never imagined that only six months into my pregnancy, Arianna would be born unexpectedly, and suddenly we would be the parents of a 1-pound, 11-ounce baby girl. With my husband by my side, they wheeled me to her incubator; there she was, my beautiful baby so small my husband’s wedding ring could dangle from her arm like a bracelet. My heart was filled with the love of a new mom, but my head kept hearing the doctor’s words, "...she has a 25% chance of surviving her first few days."
Arianna's only hope - our only hope - was the NICU.
The first few days were the worst. Most mothers get to hold their babies as soon as they are born - I didn’t get to hold Arianna until she was eight days old. Then when I thought we had faced the worst, we had to send our 13-day-old daughter, who was already fighting for her life, into surgery. The thought of our tiny, vulnerable baby undergoing anesthesia and yet another medical procedure was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to endure.
That was how we began our four-month stay in the NICU. The nurses said to expect Arianna to take one step forward and two steps back. That’s exactly what she did. The NICU experience was an emotional roller coaster - from the dismay of blood transfusions to the thrills of her first cry, to her graduation into the "four-pound club," to the day we could take Arianna home.
Fortunately, St. Joe’s NICU has a built in support system. The doctors and nurses shared in our celebrations and supported us on the bad days; they not only take care of the babies, they also take care of the families. St. Joe’s also has a Family Advisory Board - a group of parents whose babies have been in the NICU - because sometimes the best support comes from someone who’s 'been through it."
- Tricia P., Family Advisory Board Member