Luke in the crib.

Baby Luke spent 3 weeks in the NICU

The last few months have kind of been a whirlwind for my husband, Luke and me. The whirlwind began with Luke’s arrival six weeks early (Aug. 7) and then spending about three weeks in the NICU with Luke.

Luke needed to learn to eat and start to grow consistently. At the beginning, we were told he might have to stay in the NICU until his original due date of Sept. 19. That would have been a long time, but it would have been worth it to make sure Luke was going to be okay.

Once I was discharged from the hospital, I started staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Sioux City. My parents took time out of their life to come and stay with me because Rodney had to go back to work. I couldn’t drive yet after having surgery, so I needed someone to drive me back and forth to the hospital.

Routine

Thus began our routine. Each day we would get up and have breakfast before going to the hospital for the day. When I say “for the day,” I really mean the whole day – from about 7:45 a.m. until about 10 p.m.

Since I was nursing Luke on a three-hour schedule, I couldn’t go far before he would be hungry again.  I would nurse, pump, take a nap, have visitors and sometimes read a book. I also took time out to do work for The Catholic Globe that I wasn’t able to finish before Luke arrived.

Lunch eat day was provided by the Ronald McDonald House in the Ronald McDonald room just outside the NICU. Volunteers put the lunches together for the parents and families of the babies in the NICU. Such a wonderful option!

My parents were at the hospital most of the time either in Luke’s room with me or in the waiting room.

My dad would leave occasionally to run errands or go back to the Ronald McDonald House to make supper. He was deemed our chauffer, errand runner and cook.

My mom helped me at the hospital and through the nights with pumping and during the day she held Luke, which I am sure was so difficult. Just joking! I think that was her favorite part.

They both took care of me in ways that I will be forever grateful for. I can’t imagine what this would have been like without my parents. They helped me more that I could have ever imagined I would need to ask them to help me.

I continue to be reminded that once you become a parent, you are a parent for the rest of your life. I can’t thank them enough for all they did for Luke, Rodney and me.

Milestones

While Luke was in the NICU, he needed to pass certain milestones before he could go home. Getting to each of them seemed like it took forever, but he needed to go through them to be able to leave.

The first step was Luke being off all his IVs, which were inserted into his bellybutton. This happened on Aug. 13, less than a week after he was born. This also meant that he could graduate from the warmer to an actual crib and be able to wear clothes. So awesome!!

Then came weening him off caffeine. What? Caffeine? Yes, caffeine. He was given this to simulate his breathing since he was born early. Once he was taken off caffeine, he needed to be off of it for seven days before he could go home.

The final obstacles would be eating better and gaining weight. This took a little longer since my milk didn’t want to come in very well and he needed more than I was able to provide him. The final tube, his feeding tube, didn’t come out until the Sunday before we were able to go home.

About a week before we took Luke home, I started staying at the hospital and feeding him “on demand.” This pretty much means I was feeding him when he was hungry, about every two to three hours.

Luckily, the hospital has a parent room I was able to stay in. There is only one, so it worked out great that I could stay in this room and not have to sleep in Luke’s room. The nurses would call me when it was time for Luke to eat and I would walk down the hall. Once his feeding tube was taken out, Luke was able to stay in the parent room with me, which was a good test of how things would go when we were able to go home.

One of the last tests for Luke was the car seat test. He had to be able to sit in his car seat for two hours, the duration of his ride home.

Medical staff

The doctors and nurses in the NICU were wonderful and very helpful.

Every 12 hours Luke had a different nurse. We kind of got used to the routine and the different nurses who cared for Luke. I wanted to take them home with me to help out when I left. The time in the hospital would have been very different without this group of nurses.

The nurse practitioners were with us for 24 hours at a time and the doctors were there for a week at a time.

Thank you to all of the doctors and nurses who took care of Luke and supported us during our time in the NICU. I was able to go home with peace of mind knowing everything each of those on the medical staff taught me.

Visits from Daddy

Even though Rodney wasn’t able to stay with us the while time Luke was in the NICU, he was able to visit one day on the weekend and one day during the week.

This was the best part of the week. Not that I didn’t like having my parents around. It was just different when Daddy was able to be there.

He took the time to hold Luke as much as he could while he was there.

The last time Rodney had to make a trip to Sioux City was Aug. 29 to bring Luke and me home to the farm. This was the first time all three of us were in the car together and it was wonderful!!

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