Filled With “What Ifs”

Wyatt Dean was born at 30 weeks and 6 days at Mt. Hood Medical Center in 2015. My water broke unexpectedly at a holiday celebration with family, and it being our first child we assumed we should go to the hospital where we expected to give birth. After establishing it was in fact my water breaking, a transfer to Emanuel was put in the works. Unfortunately, my body had other plans and Wyatt was born just about 2 hours after being admitted. He was transported from Mt. Hood to Randall Children’s Hospital by the NICU transport team while I stayed at MHMC. While the whole childbirth experience was so fast, watching my son leave without me by his side was truly traumatic.

Thankfully because there were no labor complications, I was able to be discharged the following day and reunited with my son in the NICU at Randall. I can’t fully describe that feeling walking into that room the first time. All of the machines, the wires, the beeps, his little face with the CPAP— it was very overwhelming. Reality quickly set in that we would be spend a number of days, including Christmas, in that little room.

For being close to 9 weeks early, Wyatt did well in the NICU and was established as a “feeder/grower.” Learning how to hold his body temperature, he needed to eat and breath without help in order to go home. He spent some time with breathing support, a feeding tube, and bilirubin lights to help with jaundice.

The 45 days we were there felt like an eternity and even the smallest milestones were never enough to get us home.

How will he ever eat enough on his own if he will barely take 10 mils here? How can I be sure he doesn’t have another brady (bradycardia) at home if I keep hearing the alarm here? My mind was constantly filled with “what ifs.”

Being in the NICU was never something we had planned for, or really even thought about. My pregnancy was “perfect” up until my water broke. It wasn’t until we were able to take Wyatt home that the fear of the unknown really set in, and I started to feel emotional about the experience. I wondered how I could prevent this in the future if I didn’t know the cause. I wanted to know why my body failed me and my baby. Near the end of our stay we became aware of the Randall Facebook group and subsequently NICU Families Northwest. Joining this online community helped me connect with others who understood my experience, and provided a safe place where I could express my feelings. The parents I met online knew what it felt like to be separated from their baby just after birth, to spend hours upon hours doing kangaroo care, to cry knowing the uphill battle their little one would have to face.

I know every NICU story doesn’t have a happy ending, and I find myself feeling guilty at times because I know Wyatt’s experience was relatively easy compared to many. But having this group of families that are here to support each other without judgement has been my saving grace. There is so much I know now that I wish I had known during our stay, but if I could offer anything to those in in the NICU now, it would be: allow yourself to process the experience as it’s happening and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Reach out to family, friends, medical staff, and your local NICU community. And of course, kangaroo care with your baby as much as humanly possible.

Wyatt was born December 22nd, 2015 at 3 lbs. 5 ozs. He is a happy, curious little boy and just celebrated his first birthday.

Erin & Tyson and son Wyatt Then and Now