As I approach the one year anniversary since Oliver has left the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (known as the NICU), I can't help but ponder the experience we had.

No journey in the NICU is ever easy, to put it mildly.

The doctors and nurses handling my care while I was on bed rest knew very well how irritable my uterus was. 

I was on daily medications for contractions and even some to try and lengthen my cervix (since I was suffering from an incompetent cervix). 
 

I had some scares, in which they quickly countered with magnesium (oh fun!) and these shots that would stop the contractions but cause your heart to race and give you the jitters like no other! 

One morning I was suffering from a back ache that would not go away, and 10 minutes, eight centimeters later, I was off to have Oliver! 

Oliver spent 45 days in the NICU, coming home just shy of 36 weeks. 

Not only was he my first child, but I was now bringing him home before I would have even had him as planned at 37 weeks. 
 

Let me tell you though, those 45 days felt like an entire year! 

I spent three days recovering in the hospital, and felt pretty well prepared for that upcoming day when I would be discharged without my baby. 

The inevitable day came, and of course I cried like a baby all the way home and then some. 

We lived with my mom at the time, to help alleviate any extra costs as we racked up the medical bills. 
 

This meant our drive to the NICU was now a 30 minute drive, instead of a 15 minute scuttle while I healed. 

I would wake up, shower and head straight to the NICU making sure I didn't miss the dedicated times they allowed me to have the slightest interaction with my son. 

At first, I was little things like a touch or opening of the incubator to talk to him. 

It slowly progressed to diaper changes and checking his temperature. 
 

Oliver had to lay on his stomach the first weeks of his life, and I don't know if you have ever had to change a diaper like this, but to change one smaller than your palm was Olympic material! 

We were awful at first, and Oliver made us well aware of this with his uncomfortable cries and mommy's wet shirts, but Aaron and I soon became experts. 

After a week, we were finally given permission to hold our baby son. 

They “unplugged” my baby, and laid him on my bare chest. 
 

Kangaroo care, is what they call it. 

The nurses had advised us beforehand that if we wanted to hold our son, it could only be one parent a day and you had to commit at least an hour straight, so it wouldn't disturb Oliver too much. 

Commit at least an hour straight....? 

Are you kidding me?! 
 

I would commit 24 hours straight if it were possible. 

One thing I found disturbing, was those awful beeps and alarms that would go off for any medically explained reasons. 

Not only this, but when I would walk into his room for the first time that day. 

If I saw a nurse or doctor at his bedside, I would start sweating, fearing any bad news. 
 

Since Oliver was born at three pounds and was going to undeniably need a VP shunt placed in his head for his hydrocephalus, he was not quite heavy enough to perform the surgery. 

Instead they placed a reservoir, which looked like a little bubble on his head, and they would tap into that with a needle 1­2 times a day withdrawing the excess fluid. 

For this reason, we had nurses at his bedside quite often, putting me into unnecessary panic mode. 

Back to those awful beeps though... 
 

If his oxygen was low, BEEP! 

If he skipped a breath, BEEP! 

If something came unplugged because he tugged it off, BEEP! 

Not only his station, but he was occasionally roomed with another baby and sometimes it would be their beeps too! 
 

I had come to loath the sounds of the NICU. 

But then something changed. 

I had grown so accustomed to the noises, that I could tell you exactly what beep meant what and could alter Oliver in a different position to help him breath or pat his back if one went off while eating because he was probably aspirating. 

As day 45 was approaching, I found myself worried about how I would ever survive without these alarms. 
 

What if I was sleeping and Oliver missed a breath and I would not know? 

Where would I look to see Oliver's heartbeat or breaths per minute? 

I did what I knew best, and turned to blogs. 

I comforted myself reading how other mothers went through the same situation, and just eventually learned how to deal without them. 
 

Not only deal, but survive! 

I knew then, that I could make it and no machine could better read my son than me. 

So just like that, Aaron and I would take turns, one being allowed to change his diaper and take his temp, and the other to hold and eventually begin feeding him by bottle. 

45 days just like this. 
 

We spent Easter and mother's day in the NICU with him, coming home just in time for his baby shower. 

I just want to reach out and let anyone who may be going through this NICU journey, or know someone who is, that you are not alone! 

Even if you don't have a baby with special needs, being in the NICU can try the strongest of people. 

Visit when you can, read to your child when you can, touch them when you can, and don't be afraid to ask to hold them! 
 

This kangaroo care is no joke, and can create the strongest of bonds between you and your child. 

Above all, make sure you take the time to rest! 

You can't be super­mommy or super­daddy without making sure your 100 percent and ready to go.

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