Paying It Forward for NICU Families

Paying It Forward for NICU Families

At 31 weeks pregnant with our third baby, my water broke while I was sleeping in the middle of the night. I never in a million years thought this was a possibility. I had delivered our first child at 40 weeks and second child at 39 weeks. Since the baby was stable when we got to the hospital, I was admitted to the antepartum unit. I had never even heard of the antepartum unit.

Over the course of the next three days I was given several medications for both the baby and myself, the worst for me being magnesium which is administered through IV. Magnesium essentially halts labor so that the baby can receive crucial steroid injections to help develop her lungs. As parents, we will do anything to protect our children. The name of the game in the antepartum unit is ‘keep the baby in as long as you possibly can.’ Those three days were some of the hardest of my life, both emotionally and physically. Our baby was about to be born nine weeks prematurely. I ‘up and left’ my two children at home in the middle of the night with no warning and no sense of when I would return. I was physically so sick from the magnesium. I had to stay in the antepartum unit for an undetermined amount of time. It was so scary and I felt so alone. I felt like my body failed me. I felt like I would do anything to keep this baby safe, but also felt so sick myself that I needed some relief. Once the baby received the necessary dose of steroids, our doctors agreed that we could let nature take its course. That night, weighing 3 pounds, our baby Shai was born.

After previously having two typical deliveries, it was shocking to see the amount of people in the room when I delivered Shai. I was able to see her for a quick second and then she was quickly taken to the NICU. I didn’t know then that I would not be able to hold her for almost three weeks. So much was unknown. Our NICU journey was filled with highs and lows, although we can look back now and feel extremely fortunate that Shai turned out to be a pretty typical ‘grower and feeder.’ But no parent is prepared for the journeys the NICU brings or for going home without your baby. Each day I would visit Shai 2-3 times and my husband would come every night after work. Luckily, at exactly 35 weeks, Shai was able to come home. She is now almost two years old, has started school and has developmentally caught up. She is our little miracle.

When I was introduced to ICU baby in the NICU, I knew I wanted to join them. The journey of the NICU and all of the unknowns that come along with it is terrifying and I wanted to be able to support women and families in the same way I was supported when I needed it most. As soon as Shai turned one I started dedicating some of my time to this organization, giving back to NICU families. I am so honored to host ICU baby’s Inaugural Little Miracles Luncheon on World Prematurity Day, where we will share stories, spread awareness, and pay tribute to some of the littlest warriors in our community.

Written by Chelsea Mandler, former NICU mother