All kidding aside, my maternity leave was different. It's okay I'm a bit different. But I wanted to break down our day-to-day. Not for anything other than education. Maybe you have a friend or family member dealing with a "not so normal" maternity leave. I'll tell you what they need most. Voicemails. Text Messages. And Food. I didn't write a single thank-you card, but we couldn't have done it alone - Thank You.
After getting released from the hospital without your babes at your side, things change. You start to live in a life you never even knew existed. One that includes phone calls to nurses at all hours of the night, pumping non-stop (sorry guys), discussions on milliliters and saturation rates, kangaroo time and more tubes and wires than you've ever seen. Oh and the beeping. You will always remember the beeping.
There's something comforting and scary about the NICU at the same time. There's comfort in knowing that your child has the best care possible and there's comfort in knowing that the other families you spend hours with "get it." It's equally as scary because what you see day-to-day makes you appreciative of one thing, life.
So day in and day out you acclimate to a new norm. You spend hours in the NICU and it never seems like enough. Each time you walk out the door you restrain yourself from running back in. You need a break but you also never want to leave. That's why NICUs employ the most amazing nurses. You need them not only for the babies but for the parents who brought these darlings into the world. Again, thank you.
To make it a bit more confusing we had 2 babes in 2 different NICUs in 2 different hospitals. They were connected, but about a 15 minute walk from each other. Our days were spent logistically planning how we could spend as much time as possible with each baby. To break it down, there was never enough time.
But there was support. Through our nurses, through our NICU neighbors, through our family and friends. And that is how we survived month 1. The 1 1/2 hour drive each way each day. The saying good-bye each night. The hoping for good news the next morning.
There are a lot of details you don't share with the world. How some days you need a break but taking that break is almost worse. How your baby doesn't seem small even when preemie diapers are too big. How you really don't know if and when your baby can come home.
You also gain a lot of knowledge by being a NICU family. How to care for and love some of the tiniest little darlings. How you don't let wires get in the way. How to laugh about poop explosions in an isolate. How to dress a baby who's clothes don't even fit. It all feels normal in there at that moment. And normal is something we don't take for granted anymore.