Small But Mighty – Henry’s NICU Journey

Baby Henry In The NICU

Taking a breath . . .

Mom and emergency dispatcher, Heather, has some critical advice for moms who are feeling worried and overwhelmed. “Take a breath,” she says. Some days, especially on those really hard days, she finds herself reminding her baby’s dad (and herself) of this. “We are out of the NICU and doing good. It isn’t easy and we’re still working to make things better, but we are doing good.”

And in that moment, I can picture just how grateful I would be if I called 911 and Heather was on the other line.

Since becoming a mom Heather has had a lot of practice “taking a breath.”

That first tingle of fear . . .

Her pregnancy was going along smoothly when at 25 weeks some unusual cramping sent her to the hospital for reassurance. When the nurse conducting Heather’s exam ducked out to grab another nurse for assistance, Heather felt that first tingle of fear. Then a doctor came in and told her that she was in labor.

That’s impossible,” she said. “I’m only 25 weeks pregnant.” An avid reader, Heather knew exactly how her baby was developing at 25 weeks and it was definitely not time for her little one to enter the world. The doctors agreed. Soon her water broke, and they did everything they could to halt labor and keep baby Henry cozy inside for longer. They rushed her from a smaller regional hospital to Connecticut Children’s, a hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit equipped to provide the highest-level care.

COVID was still challenging the hospital environment and Heather was largely on her own, with some support from the baby’s father and her own dad. Her mother and sister have passed away so that support from women, which many mothers rely on especially during pregnancy and birth, was not available. Heather felt grateful for all the work the medical team at the hospital was doing to protect Henry. She also felt isolated. She couldn’t leave the hospital floor in case she went into labor. She was just stuck there waiting, worrying and hoping Henry would wait to make his entrance into the world.

Entering the world – and the NICU . . .

19 days later, Henry came into the world screaming – something which Heather took as a good sign. Little Henry needed to stay in an incubator until he could control his body temperature. He also needed a CPAP machine to regulate his breathing. Heather, committed to attachment parenting, worried about how she could bond with her little guy if she couldn’t hold and touch him. He was so small, just 2 lbs. 5 oz at birth, he needed her and all the medical support. Thankfully, after 3 days, she was able to hold and practice extensive skin-to-skin care for him. 

Many early preterm babies need to stay in the hospital until their original due date, and this was true for Henry. Born on April 17 he left the NICU on July 20. Heather was there with him every day.  Wanting to save her maternity leave days for Henry’s homecoming, she continued to work nights as an ER dispatcher before heading straight to the hospital after her shift. She made sure to be there for medical rounds with the doctors. She wanted to understand everything she could about Henry’s needs and how to help him.

They say knowledge is power . . .

The staff at Connecticut Children’s were so good at explaining everything to me. They seemed to know that I couldn’t take in all the information the first time. I was so stressed and overwhelmed. They repeated everything multiple times until I fully absorbed it. There are things that they told me then, such as how they would handle a subsequent pregnancy if I wanted to have another child, that I couldn’t even begin to think about while I was so focused on making sure this baby was ok. But now those conversations come back to me and I’m so thankful for them“.

The lactation specialists? They were extra good!

Henry couldn’t breastfeed initially, but the lactation specialists encouraged Heather to start pumping around the clock right away. Then they offered Henry donor milk and explained how the nutrients in donor milk made it his best option until her own milk supply came in. After asking lots of questions to make sure it was safe, Heather felt reassured and grateful for this option. Like so many moms, she wasn’t familiar with donor milk before delivering and wished she had known about it. It would have been one less question during a time of endless questions. 

Life after NICU – giving back and moving forward . . .

It wasn’t long before Heather had enough milk to supply Henry with what he needed – and then some! Even before Henry came home from the hospital, Heather knew she wanted to donate her excess milk and that she had an abundant supply to share. The hospital directed her to our milk bank, the same place where the NICU gets milk for their tiny charges. Since then, Heather has been sharing the gift of milk with other babies, a gift that her own baby needed in those first daunting days.

Today, Henry is almost a year old and that long stay in the NICU feels like a lifetime ago. He’s a snuggly, happy guy who is growing and developing well. “You would never know he was born early,” say his doctors and that’s music to Heather’s ears.

Did you know that just $50 is enough to provide thirty meals for medically fragile babies like Henry? No matter how big or small your donation makes a difference. Thank you for your support.

Baby Henry In The NICU
Donor Milk In The NICU
Baby Henry after NICU
Henry After NICU