There has been many articles recently about mental health for parents and family members that have experienced NICU life, and all the bumps, drop, loop de loops that roller coaster has in store for everyone incolved. I would like to share my battle with PTSD post NICU, 3 and half years later.
My son was born 16 weeks early, and I was a worrier before this, but this experience has amplified my paranoia about anything and everything that was not in my control. My little Spud was born at 24 weeks and 2 days gestation, 11 inches 1 pound 12 oz, and loud. He annouced his presence with a meek but powerful squeak, almost like a newborn kitten, I learned later that it was rare for little ones that early to have a powerful entrance, so much so that the nurses held him unsure of what to do for a moment or two.
Now, this part is mainly to explain where I came from to have you understand where I am now. We were in the NICU for 157 days total and 33 days in a childrens hospital, with 2 attempts at coming home before the third one stuck. We were sent home the first time just before his due date, and his Respiratory therapist came tonthe house the following morning and as she hooked him up to the pulse ox monitor he stopped breathing, turned grey and she preformed CPR on him while i was on the phone with 911 amd rounded up cats. She got him breathing and crying and back to the NICU we went, they kept us for 4 days, ran tests and came up with nothing, so they wrote it off as a one off situation and sent us home. As I drove him home I make sure he was mad and would cry the whole 15 minute drive home. You might see that as cruel, I saw that as a way to keep calm. That was the beginning of my spiral down, we got home. My husband and I gave our son his first bath at home, I swaddled him up, put a bum on him and fed him. I handed him to my husband to burp while I went to clean the bottles. Two minutes later my husband is yelling, I run and spring into action, I start CPR, got my husband to wrangle cats and call 911. I got him to burp, fart and whine but no gasp or full cry. The paramedics, who were the same group that were at our house 4 days prior, lifted me off my child and into the hall to start CPR with machines and oxygen masks.
We were admitted for 34 days in the NICU and 33 in the children’s Hospital after this incident. I refused social work while in the NICU and hospital with my son. I did not want to focus on me, I wanted my son to come home and stay home and stay alive this time. I spent hours writing everything down, filling my sons medical binder with everything and anything. He was my focus 110%.
The third time he came home on oxygen, on a tank I had to bring around with me, so I became a hermit and only left if I had a helper, or to the doctors office alone. He was home before Christmas, and off oxygen by March, my husbands birthday, and I went to a happy routine with him until June. I had to put my son in daycare for 2 hours a day while I worked nights, and my husband worked days.
Thats when my husband and family started noticing a slight problem, at work I would be overcome with a sence of panic and call my husband repeatedly until he would answer anc check on Spud, make sure he was breathing, make him put the phone up to his mouth so I could hear it. It wasn’t just once and a while, it was 1 to 3 times a night 5 nights in a row. My family doctor put my ativan while at work, but to use as needed, he also put me in touch with a family councillor who was the first person to tell me I may have NICU PTSD and put me in touch with a psychologist.
I saw her once a week, we worked on talking and medications therapies that helped calm me down. This was from July till October, I was down to once a month visits. The end of October I found out we were pregnant with baby number 2. And I had to stop my medications, and up my therapy visits to try and remain normal. But in January, I lost my job and my coverage for therapy and my husbands coverage couldn’t cover it anymore. I panicked for most of my pregnancy, I had a full meltdown at 22 weeks and again at 24 weeks. I had it in my brain that something was going to go worng. I didn’t enjoy my pregnancy with my daughter, I didn’t feel the joy of finding out it was a girl, I didn’t feel happy shopping for clothes because it felt like something was going to go wrong. But nothing did, Princess Tally came into the world 6 days overdue at 8 lbs 14oz 22 inches long via c section because she had a big head like her dad.
I didn’t enjoy my 4 day hospital stay, I refused to put her down, I made nurses watch her while I went to the bathroom if family wasn’t there. They made me meet with a social worker to help me get back on medications, which ment I could not breast feed. I had to do it, I had to make this sacrifice for my daughter, so I would have all my mental faculties for her, Spud and my husband.
I manage my PTSD with medications to this day, and I still have good days and bad days where I pop an Ativan to get through the day, I struggle daily with it, there are nights I wake up 4 to 6 times a night and check both kids, I do not work. I stay at home and try to find some normalcy for my family, for me, I start back to counseling in 3 weeks. Its a battle, but I am willing to fight this, because I have something worth fighting for.
– Ashton <3