For us, Jaxson was able to come home after spending 17 weeks in the NICU. He was discharged with oxygen, a pulse oximeter and 4 medications. My husband and I both felt like NICU nurses by the time our son came home. Throughout the months we had learned medical jargon, and so many things we never even knew existed! Once he came home we began the journey of balancing being Jaxson's parents as well as taking care of his medical requirements. Most parents deliver their baby full term and are sent home within 1-3 days. I remember a friend (who had a baby a few days after Jaxson came home) telling me that she wished she had some of the knowledge we had gained, and how she would've love to have a monitor to track her baby's heart rate and pulse. We knew SO SO much, and when she made that comment a part of me felt defensive- she probably didn't mean any harm, but, we didn't ask to be in this position to be inundated with medical "stuff"!
Due to Jaxson's early arrival, we didn't have much time to prepare in getting some of the essential things we needed. There were baby list floating around on the web that were somewhat helpful when it came down to possibly knowing what we should get but it took some trial and error to really find out what would ultimately work for us. I decided to put together a list of 15 things that we highly recommend AND use regularly. We all know how overwhelming it can be to prepare for your little one- maybe this list will help you for your little ones arrival or coming home from the NICU.
1. Eddie Bauer Alpine 4 Travel System - We love using this car seat and stroller system. Both are lightweight and manageable. Being able to easily handle a stroller was a big deciding factor in choosing. There is one latch to unfold the stroller and easily lifts to fold! The car seat snaps in easily to the base and onto the stroller. Comes in 3 cool colors.
2. Eddie Bauer Complete Care Playard - This is hands down one of our favorites. We use to as a bassinet and Jaxson enjoys it. This pack and play has a lot of cool features; a night light, soothing sounds, a removable changing table, pockets to hold diapers, wipes and babies accessories. It is also lightweight, easy to move around and will grow with baby.
3. Petunia Pickle Bottom Boxy Diaper Bag - Not only is this bag stylish, it is also quite roomy inside and comes with a removable changing pad. It can also be worn on the shoulder or as a backpack which my husband loves.
4. Aveeno Baby Calming Comfort Lotion - Such a pleasing smell of Lavender & Vanilla, soft and smooth. Perfect after a bath to soothe and calm baby.
5. Johnson & Johnson - We love using this baby wash during bath time. It is lightly scented and relaxes Jaxson before bedtime.
6. Pampers Swaddlers - Hands down the best diapers! Provides up to 12 hours of overnight protection, and the color-changing wetness indicator is by far my favorite with these diapers. We love that sizes range from preemie-size 5! Our little one always stays dry with pampers and has had no adverse reactions (irritation, diaper rash, etc.)
7. Little Noses by Little Remedies Saline Drops - Perfect for easing congestion in babies nose. This non-medicated relief flushes and removes mucus from little noses. Best if used before suctioning babies nose.
8. Nose Frida - Hands down the best "snot-sucker"! It works better than a traditional bulb aspirator and is 100% effective. We use the Little Remedies Saline Drops before using which helps in loosening up the boogies and getting babies nose completely clear. MUST HAVE!
9. Little Tummys by Little Remedies Gripe Water - This is the #1 go to when Jaxson is fussy and may be having tummy trouble. It eases stomach discomfort (often associated with) colic and hiccups. This highly-effective herbal supplement includes ginger and fennel. He loves that taste!
10. Dr. Brown's Bottles - Great option for babies and helps to reduce colic, gas and spit up. The venting system is awesome and there are even options to purchase preemie nipples.
11. Boon Grass Countertop Bottle Rack - Perfect drying rack for bottles and baby accessories. The sleek and stylish rack also allows for water to drain into the holding tray. The flexible grass blades help with air drying and it is easy to clean.
12. Honest Hand Sanitizer - Protecting your baby from germs is a top priority. When you can't get to a sink and soap this hand sanitizer is PERFECT to kills 99% of germs and bacteria. This is one of the softest and smoothest hand sanitizers on the market. It has a light aloe scent and is naturally made with a plant based formula.
13. Lala Bubaby Soothe Shirt - This is a new way to be stylish while baby wearing. This is an all in one baby wearing cute tank top that also has a cozy pouch for baby and also has a nursing bra. Who says moms can't be cute while still holding their baby AND getting things done! Love this top!
14. Infantino Go GaGa Baby Deluxe - This is such a cool play mat that your little one will be sure to love! It has a musical mobile, a head rest, plush toys with lots of textures and a baby mirror. Jaxson goes ga ga over this play mat!
15. Modern Burlap Swaddle Blanket - This ultra-soft muslin swaddle blanket with a powerful statement is perfect keeping your little one bundled up in style. It can also be used as a stroller cover, floor time play rug, nursing cover and so much more.
There's a deep void that sometimes comes with being a parent to a preemie. Feelings of loneliness and isolation. Birthing a premature child puts you in a club that you didn't really want to be in but circumstantially welcomes you with open arms. I remember in the beginning I shut down in a way, I showed strength but inside I was a little withdrawn. I couldn't talk to my friends who were pregnant, it was hard to see mother's with their babies out and about. I was mourning my pregnancy that was cut short. I hid my truth for some time, my text replies were short and sweet and talking on the phone was a rare occurrence. I became guarded not wanting people to feel pity for me, my husband or our baby boy. Yet at the same time, I felt like the world should know what we were facing. I felt like screaming to the top of my lungs sometimes. I wanted people to stop complaining about little things and realize 'hey your life isn't all THAT bad'. I guess in a way I had some self pity. This badge of honor, being a NICU parent is one that would I carry for the rest of my life, it changed me and caused my perspective to change.
To say I was as fragile as a piece of china would be putting it lightly. People often mentioned how strong my husband and I were. Their words would soothe my soul. I found strength when I looked at our son, I prayed often and felt the prayers of others. That is what I feel helped us make it day by day. Although I would never know what it felt like to have a full term 100% healthy newborn, I still felt blessed to have my miracle son. Our "normal" wasn't normal to most but still we pressed our way through, smiled through the pain and continued to share our story although the pages were being written daily.
Like a lot of preemies, Jaxson came home on oxygen, a pulse oximeter monitor (which monitors the babies oxygen saturation levels) and 4 medications. A few days prior to Jaxson's discharge, Life Care Solutions dropped all of the equipment off that we would need. I walked into my living room and immediately became overwhelmed, my heart dropped! A warm sensation came upon me and I am pretty sure I felt like I was going to pass out. My husband told me we would have a tutorial on how everything worked. My flesh felt rebellious, in that moment I didn't want to learn, and I certainly didn't want my baby boy to NEED this when he came home. I cried out to God, why? how? How can we live a "normal" life and go places and have play dates? Would I feel ashamed or embarrassed when we went out in public because we have oxygen and a pulse ox with us? Although this equipment would only be temporary, it still It took me a moment to process these overwhelming feelings.
God never gives us more than we can bear. He saw fit that Marc and I would be great parents to Jaxson. The more I began to feel the Lord's grace covering me, thankfulness filled my heart. To know that God trusted us enough to not only birth a miracle, but to take care of him and raise him to be an amazing person showed me how blessed we were. Many are called, but few are chosen. Knowing that you have been chosen and hand picked by God to be your child's parent is amazing! No matter how hard the road you may have to travel, God's grace is sufficient, it is simply enough. He doesn't call the equipped, He equips the called. The task that was upon us, felt heavy...we were entering into a season of not just being a parent, but being a care taker monitoring oxygen saturations, heart rate and multiple medications around the clock, while still providing love and and a nurturing environment for Jaxson. My husband and I don't have medical backgrounds, but for 4 months while Jaxson was in the NICU, God filled us with all of the knowledge we would need to know. We would hold conversations with people and they would say, "wow you sound like a nurse"! While we aren't certified RN's, we have become skilled at taking care of Jaxson and have gained the confidence and strength to be the best parents to our NICU graduate.