A Mother’s NICU Words of Wisdom
Kelsey Cox knows a thing or two about coping with a stay in the neonatal intensive care unit. She and her husband Kevin spent 124 days in the Level IIIB NICU at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano when their twin sons were born in early November 2015.
During her pregnancy, Kelsey was diagnosed with a funneling and shortened cervix — a condition often associated with preterm labor. The 29-year-old mom to be was put on hospital bed rest at 21 gestational weeks in an effort to delay contractions as long as possible. At just 25 weeks, Hudson and Graham Cox made their way into the world. Baby Hudson weighed a mere 2 pounds, 2 ounces and baby Graham weighed 2 pounds, 3 ounces.
As is often the case with premature infants, Hudson and Graham had difficulties breathing at birth and had to be put on oxygen in the hospital’s NICU. Hudson had other challenges that set the family back emotionally as well. Although he kept his parents on their toes, Kelsey admitted that Hudson’s health issues helped her and her husband learn a lot about themselves and how to cope during their long stay with their sons in the NICU.
Finding the Positive in an Extended Stay
“It was difficult being in the NICU over three holidays ― Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years ― but I think this helped keep us busy and our minds off the boys’ struggles, even if just for a short time,” Kelsey said. “Some days were much harder than others, but spending time up at the NICU every day helped bring us peace of mind and took away some of the guilt we felt in not constantly being there.”
For other parents who may face a similar experience, Kelsey offered these suggestions for staying focused on a happy ending out of what she and her husband learned during their time in the NICU:
- Stay well-informed by asking the nurses and staff any questions you may have. Doing some research online can help you keep everything in perspective.
- Be involved in the care of your baby while in the NICU. We enjoyed doing all of the diapers, temperature taking and other activities with the boys while we were there. It was a great bonding experience.
- Join the Texas Health NICU Parents Facebook group, as well as other preemie and micro preemie groups. This will help you see that others are going through the same thing as you. The NICU journey can be lonely and rather isolating so it’s nice to see happy stories about older preemies.
- Keep a daily journal. I journaled every day and kept it for the boys to read when they got old enough.
- Take it one day at a time. This is really important. It seems like you are in the NICU forever but the time will go by faster if you don’t look too far ahead.
- Stay busy and don’t forget to enjoy life when you are not in the NICU. My husband and I visited every single day of our 124-day stay but we would also enjoy our time together by going to dinner or a movie.
- Rely on family and close friends to get you through. They are such blessings.
- Bring books to read and sing while you are holding or doing kangaroo care with your newborn. To this day, our boys love to listen to me sing and absolutely LOVE reading books.
Paying the Experience Forward
Although it has been several years since the birth of the Cox twins, Kelsey said they still return to the Texas Health Plano NICU. At Christmas time they delivered a candy bouquet to the nurses with whom they have become friends with, and they brought books for parents to read to their babies. They also return for the annual NICU Reunions to connect with other parents and celebrate the nurses for the miracle workers that they are.
“All of the nurses were amazing; it takes somebody very special to do what they do,” Kelsey added. “One stood out in particular. The first time my husband and I met nurse Cathy Dyke, she came out super excited to tell us about something one of our boys had done. She truly loved the babies she cared for, and she was the type of person who you wanted loving and caring for your babies when you could not be there to love on them yourself.
The NICU is not the end of the world like I had once thought. It was not the birth I had planned and definitely not where I had seen things going, but I think things happen for a reason. Our nearly 18 weeks spent in the NICU have helped me to NEVER take things for granted and to be deeply thankful for everything that I have.