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Author Monica Holland and her family at Christmas time

An Unexpected Journey with CHKD's NICU

Author: Monica Holland
Published Date: Tuesday, October 15, 2019

I found out I was expecting, and everything was going just as planned. I was proud of myself for “rocking the whole pregnancy thing.” 

The day before my 28-week appointment, I started feeling a bit off. I mentioned it to my obstetrician, and he discovered that I was dilated and had a bulging amniotic sack. I was sent to Norfolk General where I was told the baby would likely be born prematurely. “This isn’t what I had planned” kept running through my head. The nursery was not ready. I hadn’t had my baby shower. This couldn’t be happening.  

The doctors worked to keep my baby, Hudson, from being born for as long as possible by giving me magnesium, while also preparing him for delivery with steroids. I kept thinking, what did I do wrong? I followed all of the rules and ate all the right things. The next morning, one day shy of 29 weeks, I was told it was time to deliver my baby by cesarean section. I cried the whole way to the operating room. All I felt was guilt. My job was to hold this child inside of me for 40 weeks and protect and nourish him, and my body wasn’t allowing me to fulfill its role.

When Hudson was delivered I had only a quick glimpse of him before they wheeled him away to the special care nursery at Norfolk General. When I was finally able to visit, I walked to the nursery wheeling my catheter bag behind me. This was not how I expected to meet my baby. With the constant beeping of alarms going off at the isolette, my guilt really set in.

The nurse explained that he couldn’t receive any stimulation yet, so I wouldn’t be able to hold him. I sat next to him until the early hours of the morning, only leaving to briefly pump, and prayed he would make it through the night.

After three days, I was told that Hudson needed to be taken to CHKD’s NICU. It was sudden and unexpected, and I remember thinking that only the sickest children go there. I had a complete meltdown, but signed consent for him to be transferred.

At first, I was terrified, but CHKD turned out to be the biggest blessing. My baby looked more comfortable. I was encouraged to hold him, and so many of my questions were answered. The staff helped me understand what I could do to help him, and they encouraged me to participate in rounds. I realized that even though I wasn’t able to bond with him at delivery, or have the newborn photo shoot I had planned, I could do everything in my power to advocate for him and help him get healthy enough to go home. 

Today Hudson is two, and although his start was unexpected and our journey difficult, it has only made us appreciate the miracle that he is even more.

No one has the same NICU story or path, but the one thing we all have in common is that our journey was not what we expected or had planned. The NICU is a roller coaster ride and your baby is the steering wheel. Make friends, share your story, and connect with the people around you who can relate to what you’re going through. 

About Monica Holland

About Monica  Holland

Monica Holland is the mother of Hudson a former 28-weeker who stayed in the NICU 91 days. She is serving on the NICU Family Advisory Council. Holland is a first-grade teacher and loves spending time outdoors with her husband, Hudson, and the family bulldog Hoss.