When you’re the parent of a NICU graduate and you hear that the unit your baby was in is moving to a new space where each family will have a private room, it almost makes you want to come back. Almost.
Unless you’ve had a baby in the NICU, I’m not sure that you can fully understand what having your very own room means.
Our daughter, Elliana, was born 3 months early at 28 weeks and we spent 72 days in Akron Children’s NICU at St. Elizabeth’s in Youngstown. We never missed a day and spent countless hours at her bedside. We read to her through the isolette doors in the beginning, then held her for as long as the nurses would allow as she got stronger.
And we did this in the middle of a very busy, bustling neonatal intensive care unit, always feeling like we were in the way, and never feeling like we got any quiet bonding time with our baby, even though the staff did everything they could with screens to create a private space.
While Ellie was in the NICU, I was pumping breast milk every 3 hours and taking every opportunity we had to practice breastfeeding. They call mother’s milk liquid gold in the NICU and I was doing everything I could to get our tiny miracle every drop I could.
We also had our “kangaroo” time – when I could hold Ellie skin-to-skin. Kangaroo-ing was my favorite time of the day, just sitting with my baby, letting her rest on my chest, being able to really feel like her mom.
The staff always did what they could to make us feel as secluded as they could during all this, but there was no escaping the hustle and bustle of the unit. To be able to pump, to hold her skin-to-skin, and let her learn to breastfeed in a private room would have been so wonderful.
I’ve now had a chance to spend some time in this amazing new unit, with its spacious private rooms and gorgeous family respite center, generously sponsored by the Ronald McDonald House, and I know it will be such a blessing to the families who will go through there, who will call it home for the many days, weeks and months they will be there until they get to bring their baby home.
With the outstanding care already being provided by the wonderful Akron Children’s NICU doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists, this warm, inviting new space will make this difficult period just a little easier, a feel a little more like home.