Lauren Cromwell’s NICU Story

I’ve had 3 babies in the NICU, and quite possibly a 4th this fall. However, my experiences were difficult to me, but I know they are a blessing compared to most others’ experiences.

My 3rd bio baby, Briella, was born at 32 weeks gestation. Due to intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), she was the size of a 29 weeker, weighing only 2lbs 14oz. She was so skinny because her placenta and umbilical cord were not doing their jobs, and she looked sick. But other than size, she was thankfully perfectly healthy. Briella needed to grow and learn to eat without special assistance, and when she did at 37 weeks gestation, we got to bring her home. During her stay, however, I also had my 4 bonus kids and 2 bio kids at home who needed me, and no one would help us out so I could see her. My anxiety and depression peaked during her stay due to only getting to see her twice a week thanks to a lack of sitter. With every beep in the monitor, every time I had to leave her and not know when I could come back, the anxiety would overrun my mind and body. It was horrible. But Briella was a fighter. Still is to this day. Her nurses were amazing and gave her the best start at life when I couldn’t. 

My 4th bio baby, Bryleigh, was born at 29 weeks, weighing 2lbs 12oz. Luckily, she was also perfectly healthy. She just needed a little oxygen support and to learn to eat and grow. I was able to see her every weekend, and a day or 2 during the week since my husband had swapped shifts at work. But it was still hard. Remembering my anxiety from my first NICU experience, I did all I could to make the most of things. Bryleigh was at a different hospital than Briella was, and thankfully this one had cameras that my husband and I could access any time we were away from her. Bless my poor husband, he only got to see Bryleigh once a week when we went up on Saturdays. He was exhausted from staying with the other kids during the day when I’d go and see her, then getting 2 hours sleep before getting ready for 3rd shift (normally a 1st shift guy). But he was my rock and the only way I could see my baby girl when she was up there. He missed a lot of the bonding with her, but has since made up for it and has spoiled her rotten. Makes sense because he made her all on his own. She was picked right out of his butt and I only birthed her. Thankfully, at 34 weeks gestation, Bryleigh got to come home. 

My 5th bio baby, Colt, was my first biological son and our 9th child total. He was born at 32 weeks gestation, weighing 3lbs 10oz. He was spunky all throughout the pregnancy and he made sure to carry that over into his NICU stay. The nurses said he was a little ham, always smiling anytime they came by. He, too, was perfectly healthy. Like Bryleigh, he just needed a little oxygen support and to learn to eat and grow. Thankfully, I had finally made some friends who could help with babysitting our other kids while both my husband and I went to the NICU to see him. However, this was the start of COVID-19, so everything I was used to was different. At first, fathers couldn’t go into the NICU. Just the mother. Made things extremely difficult and emotional for us both. When they changed it where fathers could go in, it was only 1 parent at a time. That was also hard as we had to pick and choose who was holding him what day instead of us both getting to do so. We had to wear masks, which wasn’t necessarily mentally good for either Colt or us because when we were allowed to take it off, he was confused as to who we were until we spoke. He would have DSATs often if we changed mask to no mask and vice versa, which only prolonged his stay. When they realized it was anxiety due to confusion, they finally allowed us to take our masks off if our curtain was closed so he would always know our faces, and his DSATs went away. At 36 weeks gestation, Colt got to come home.

I am now pregnant with my 6th biological child, our 10th total, evening it out at 5 boys and 5 girls. Baby Cade is due in September 2021, however we are trying to get to July 16 – my 32nd week. Though we are pretty sure a NICU stay is inevitable, we are trying to lessen it as much as possible. My other 3 NICU babies were born early due to premature rupture of water/membranes. They were sent 2 hours away from home due to water rupturing before 32 weeks. So if we can make it to 32 weeks before that happens, NICU stay will be only an hour away. If we can make it to 34 weeks, it’s possible Baby Cade will not even need a NICU stay – which is what we are praying for. We are expecting a July baby, but hoping for an August or early September baby.