Inside the NICU

A family’s story: Beatrice, Cameron and Brooklyn.

My name is Beatrice, my husband’s name is Cameron and our beautiful daughter is Brooklyn.  This is our story…

September 2nd, 2011 was a great day.  Not only was it the start of the Labour Day weekend but it would also be the day we found out we would be parents.  Cameron and I always knew we wanted to have children but I hesitated because I wanted to grow in my career, have fun and be carefree before starting a family.  Little did I know that being a mom would truly be the best thing to ever happen to me.  My first trimester was great!  No morning sickness, didn’t get grossed out by certain foods like my girlfriends had warned me about.  Overall it was just great.  The minute I found out I was pregnant until the day I delivered I loved it!  My pregnancy was definitely not uneventful, though.  We were on vacation and had just found out we were pregnant when I experienced some spotting.  I was so scared that I called my doctor all the way from Hawaii, as I didn’t know that was normal.  Then a month later, after coming home from work I experienced some heavy bleeding.  I was so scared.  We rushed to the hospital.  The waiting was horrible, as I experienced even more bleeding and thought for sure I had miscarried.   I was heart broken and the waiting didn’t help.  Four hours later when a doctor finally examined me (which felt like an eternity), I got the best news.  He said “the baby is fine”. I cried and jumped for joy. I felt like someone had told me I had won the lottery!  After an ultrasound they also found that I had some fibroids which would probably grow throughout the pregnancy but shouldn’t create any real problems.  That would not be the case for me.

In November of 2011, after coming home from a business trip, I experienced unbearable pain.  Pain I had never experienced before to the point where I couldn’t even move.  After the pain subsided I went for a check-up and the doctor told me that my fibroids had grown and that even though most women don’t experience any pain I was one of the ones that would.  Lucky me.  She told me I had to be careful, not to overdo it because if I experienced the pain again sometimes that could lead to contractions.  Because it was so early in my pregnancy, that meant I could lose the baby.  The doctor advised me to work from home and just take it easy, so I did.  From that point I worked from home and made sure not to overdo it.  I never experienced the pain again.  The remainder of the year was uneventful.  Christmas and New Year’s were quiet and relaxing. 
After the holidays, it was back to work.  The first two weeks of the new year were spent catching up and taking it easy at home.  The weekend of January 13th started off like any other weekend, with a pizza and movie night.  On that Sunday, January 15th, I woke up at 6:30am.  I decided to stay in bed to see if I could fall asleep again.  Before I could, I felt something running down my legs.  I thought that I had an accident so I ran to the bathroom, finished, cleaned up and went back to bed.  Not five minutes had passed and it happened again.  At that point I knew something didn’t feel right.  I knew I hadn’t had an accident, but didn’t know what it was.  It happened once more before I decided to call the hospital.  They told me it would be a good idea to come in and get checked up.  Once there, I was examined and informed that my water had broke.  I was in complete shock.  I couldn’t believe it. 
Once the shock wore off (which didn’t take long), I became very scared.  I didn’t know what would happen.  All these thoughts went through my head: What if I went into labour now?  Would my baby make it?  At this point, I was exactly 24 weeks pregnant and I knew that the risks of delivering this early were high.  I had never been so scared in my life.  As I waited to hear which hospital would take me in I felt numb.  I thought “Is this really happening?”  “Am I dreaming?”  “Maybe if I just close my eyes really hard when I open them I will wake up from this nightmare”.
The first night at Sunnybrook was very sad and scary.  As Cameron left for the night I started to cry, I was so scared and all I could think of was what I did wrong?  How could I not have been able to keep my baby safe? Was it something I ate?  Something I did or didn’t do?  The guilt was unbearable.  The rest of the week was filled with worry and lots of prayers for my little one to stay in as long as possible.  The fondest memory I have of that week is of Cameron wheeling me around the hospital and talking about our daily events and day dreaming about our little one. 
The night of January 20th, I started to feel some cramps and started spotting.  After being examined and put on the contraction monitors, they told me I had nothing to worry about.  With that news, Cameron went home for the night.  I continued to feel horrible cramps. As I lay in bed I experienced horrible pain and felt the need to push.  As I pushed, I pressed the help button and out came our daughter.  I think I was in shock because I didn’t even look at her.  I just cried inconsolably.  As this was happening, in came what seemed like all the nurses and doctors of the entire hospital.  I remember two things from that night.  The first was the most wonderful nurse, an angel who happened to wear a white hoodie that night and held my daughter until someone came to take her.   She also held me after they took my daughter away.  I remember thinking afterwards that I owed her a hoodie because it must have been destroyed.  The second thing I remember is hearing someone who has now become Brooklyn’s auntie say: “I need scissors, I need to cut the umbilical cord.”  Once that was done they took my little girl and rushed me to the OR.  After that I don’t remember a thing, only waking up in the recovery room to a wonderful nurse who held my hand while I waited for Cameron to arrive.  Then I saw my angel.  She was beautiful.  Perfect in every single way.  She was little but she was mine.

The NICU. That was quite an experience.  The first day was definitely one of the hardest.  I had to watch while they performed a head ultrasound.  I felt so helpless.  I knew she wasn’t in pain but it hurt me, every part of me, even my soul.  People would congratulate me but I felt no reason to celebrate.  I didn’t want to hear it,  I only wanted to celebrate once she was home.  The NICU was very overwhelming with all the medical lingo, pumps, beeping, just everything.  The night I was discharged was the worst.  I left the hospital with no baby.  That night I cried myself to sleep and our condo felt extra empty.  The guilt was unbearable.  I felt so guilty about what kind of a mother I was that couldn’t keep her baby safe and how I could  do this to Cameron.  It was my job to keep her safe and I didn’t.  I have to be honest to this day I feel the guilt no matter what anyone says.

It’s strange how, when we were in the NICU, the time went by very fast yet really slow all at the same time, I know other NICU parents will understand what that means.  The doctors warned us that it would be a roller coaster ride and they weren’t kidding.  Her head ultrasounds were good, she was gaining weight and then they said she was ready for CPAP!  Everything was going well, but then she started to desat, have bradys and her belly started to blow up, which meant they had to re-intubate her.  Not fun.  That night we rushed back to the hospital just so she would know we were there by her side.  They cut her feeds and she started to lose weight.  They slowly re-introduced her feeds.  It felt like we were back to square one. 

Eventually, we were on the up again, Brooklyn started gaining weight and breathing better.  Again the doctors felt she was ready for CPAP.  Our first family day arrived and we were excited to spend it together as a family.  Little did we know it would be one of the toughest days in the NICU.  They had to re-intubate her because she got really tired from trying to breath and once again her belly blew up.  After doing some X-Rays, they found that she could have the beginning of NEC, which would send us to Sick Kids.  Or it could have been an infection and they would put her on antibiotics, which would hopefully help and it would mean we could stay.  Again we felt so helpless, like there was nothing we could do to make her feel better.  She was so weak.  As the days passed by she started feeling better and it seemed like she was getting back to her old self.  Every stepping stone at the NICU was scary.  Would she pass that test?  Would she desat?  Would she have a brady?   Thank God for Cameron, he truly was my rock.  He told me every day that she was going to be fine and that soon enough we would be home.  I really wanted to believe him but I just couldn’t help continuing to worry.  

But after that, we were truly on the up.  A few weeks later they tried her on CPAP and this time it worked!  Next, she was put on high flow so that it would be better on her tummy.  Once she was on low flow we could finally start breast feeding.  Brooklyn adapted well and we just had to wait for her to get bigger before we could go home.  After that, it was just a matter of her growing and weaning her off the oxygen.  This felt like an eternity.  We were so close that we could see the finish line (for all you parents at this point, hang in there! You are almost there and I promise you the finish line is so close. You’ve gone this far, it’s only a matter of time and you too will be home).  

Finally, we were ready and Brooklyn was able to go home.  Feedings were going well and she was growing, but then we were stopped dead in our tracks!  The car seat test.  Even with all her help our little girl just wasn’t ready for the 90 minute test.  As you can imagine we were devastated.  We were right at the finish line but just not ready to cross it.  The next time again she wasn’t ready but thankfully we were able to take her home in the car bed.  We couldn’t believe it, we were finally going home!  It was the happiest day!  The first night at home was the best! We just watched her sleep.  We were finally home!  It was everything we had dreamed of and more and it took us 117 days to get there.  It was worth every second.

Our days in the NICU were filled with many scary moments that included ultrasounds, eye exams, hearing test, desats, bradys, blood transfusions, x-rays and the unknown.  However, it was also filled with many happy ones, such as the first time we held Brooklyn (she was tiny but we felt blessed), when she joined the kilo club, when we gave her first bath, when she breathed on her own, the first smile and simply being able to dress her.  It also showed me the unconditional love my parents have for us. They came every day, twice a day bringing us lunch and dinner. Most of the time they didn’t even get to see Brooklyn but they didn’t care, they just wanted to be there for us.  On top of that we met so many wonderful people.  Brooklyn’s nurses have now become her aunties and one, even, her honorary grandma.  I don’t know what we would have done without them.  They became my best friends.  I never worried when they were on duty.  They loved and cared for her as if she was their own.  Her NP who always loved and cared for her (another auntie), the docs and fellows who were always there to answer any questions, the RT’s, all the RN’s,  dieticians, social workers, lactation consultants, Kate –  the whole team was AMAZING.  We were truly blessed and will forever be thankful for all of them.  These people all touched our lives in a wonderful way and have become part of our family.  I decided to write this mainly because when we were at Sunnybrook all the stories on the walls gave me so much hope that everything would be ok, and if I can give one person that same hope then this has served its purpose.  I hope your day is a little bit better after reading our story and just know your little one will soon come home, too!


About the author

Kate Robson