At 33 weeks into my pregnancy, going in for my routine checkup was just that, routine. At least that's what I thought. I had no idea that one hour after arriving I would go into premature labor, and ten hours later I would deliver my first baby.
It was a very surreal experience. I was afraid, and I had not planned or prepared for this day. At least not to happen like this.
I thought I would have time to pack a birthing bag, complete with my favorite robe, slippers, CD's, and incense (the whole kit and caboodle). I thought the nursery would be complete and everyone I loved would be at the hospital to welcome baby and comfort me. (wishful thinking)
I was not ready. I didn't even know how to hold a baby yet.
When the nurse came to me and told me I was in labor and that I was going to have a premature baby that day, she also told me that the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit staff would be present to take the baby to the NICU immediately after delivery. She said to expect a baby 2-3lbs.
I was terrified!
After I delivered and was given permission to visit my precious little baby in the NICU, I was very excited, but nervous. I had never been to a NICU before, nor had I ever seen a baby so tiny. My baby was actually one of the larger babies, at 4lbs 11oz, yet she was very small compared to full term babies.
I was not allowed to hold her. She was hooked up to monitors by at least three to four wires and leads 24 hours a day, as well as an oxygen and a feeding tube in her nose and mouth. I was sad. I felt robbed. This isn't the "motherhood" I was expecting, but I tried my best to deal with it.
Everyday and almost every moment, I was at my baby's bedside in the NICU. I learned to change her diapers, tube feed her, brush her hair, and dress her. I was still very much a mom, just in a different environment.
As suggested by one of her nurses, I cradled her bottom and her head to simulate the womb and that is how I held her. Due to her umbilical catheter, I was told she could not be picked up.
Finally after four days, the catheter was taken out, and I was given permission to pick her up and hold her. As exciting as it sounds, and as long as I had waited for this moment, I was so scared.
My baby was delicate, tiny, and so precious. I didn't want to mess up and drop her. Although she fit perfectly in my tiny arms, she felt so frail.
Gliders to the rescue
Fortunately for me, our NICU had a glider at the bedside of every baby. I had never used one before, but when I was given the opportunity to hold my baby for the first time, the glider gave me the support and comfort I needed to feel confident about not hurting my baby.
If you've ever held a premature baby in the NICU, you know how skinny and lightweight they are.
Every moment I spent getting to know my baby, I spent rocking her in the glider. Eventually, I pulled a second glider over to let hubby bond with her too.
The glider really helped me bond with my baby
Whenever I had the chance to feed and change her, I always ended up in the glider, napping with her as she slept in my arms. I couldn't rock her enough.
As the days went by she seemed to get heavier in my arms and I had a firmer grip. My comfort level had grown and so did my confidence about holding her properly. Being in the glider with her allowed me to practice cradling her, without the fear of dropping her. It also gave her a sense of stability that I could not provide initially. I didn't have any experience holding a newborn preemie before then. I was really getting into the groove of motherhood.
We enjoyed being together so much!
After two full weeks in the NICU, and countless hours rocking back and forth in the glider, my bond with my tiny baby was so strong that I couldn't wait to take her home.
Eventually, we did go home and three years later, I returned to the NICU again, for the first two weeks of my second baby's life.
Same song, second verse!
Thankfully, a glider was provided by her bedside as well, and we spent every waking moment rocking and bonding in it too.
It was a blessing!