A Mother’s First Day in the NICU

My first round as a NICU momma was four years ago with my premature daughter. She spent 25 days in the neonatal intensive care unit {NICU} before being released. The experience took a toll on me and left me exhausted and overly emotional.

When I became pregnant with my son earlier this year, I knew another NICU stint was possible, but I tried my best to ignore the idea. However, this September I found myself the mother of a second preemie and facing yet another NICU stay.

This NICU stay, however, while still stressful, was emotionally easier than the first. After 26 days in the NICU, my baby was healthy and ready to come home. I sat anxiously at his bedside, willing the nurse to just hurry up and complete his discharge paperwork, so I could kiss the NICU goodbye for the last time. That’s when another mom caught my eye. She was partially hidden by a privacy screen, quietly shedding the tears of a mom seeing her baby in the NICU for the first time. I immediately recognized the look on her face because I’d been in her shoes … twice.

There is nothing that prepares you  … for seeing your baby hooked up to cords and monitors … for accepting that the perfect picture you’d painted in your head of birth, a snuggly newborn, and going home as a family was gone … for the uncertainty of when you’ll get to bring your baby home.

I wish I’d hugged that momma. I wish I’d given her words of wisdom as a NICU veteran. Instead, I sat there searching for words that never came.

Now that I’m home with my life back together, I’ve found those words…

Take a deep breath, momma. You’re in for a ride – it will be scary, but beautiful. You are going to get the incredible experience of seeing just how big of a miracle can come from a such tiny human being. It’s okay to cry – you’re far from alone. But after that first day, start looking for rainbows in the middle of the storm. Even just an ounce gained or another milliliter eaten is worth celebration.

Take care of yourself. I know the guilt you feel when you’re not at your baby’s bedside 24/7, but you’ll get to take this baby home before you know it. You need to give yourself some time to heal and prepare for that undertaking. Right now, he’s in the best hands possible. Absolutely visit him, snuggle him, love him, learn to care for him. Then go home and take a bubble bath and nourish your body with a yummy meal. SLEEP. No one benefits if you run yourself ragged.

Lean on other NICU mommas. In my experience, the mommas alongside you in the NICU also feel alone. A smile as you pass their bedside or a shared laugh when your first diaper change ends with an outfit change can make a huge difference for you both. Also reach out to other NICU mommas who have already graduated – they will have a ton of advice. {You are also free to contact me!}

I know it’s easy to feel helpless as you watch doctors and nurses care for your baby. We all hear about the importance of bonding with the baby immediately after birth, and you probably didn’t get that chance. But you’re his momma, and no one else can hold that title or that place in his heart.  

You’re stronger than you know. I promise.

A Mother's First Day in the NICU | Houston Moms Blog


  1. HEATHER! Wow, you nailed it! This is your best post to date. I have big ole tears in my eyes because I can completely identify with everything you said. You are so right. No one “gets” the NICU experience until you’ve lived it. Such great encouragement. Love you!!


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