Two years ago tonight according to Facebook my baby girl had a good day. She had PT and OT that day which was my favorite part of her stay at the hospital. My memories now are highly dependent on the photos I posted on Facebook which I did daily giving a general update since I wasn't able to use my phone in in the NICU.
Two years ago on Feb 2, 2012 I was thrust into an unknown world. I had been in a NICU once when I was an OT student and was there for approximately 5 minutes. I had been exposed to drug culture in my upbringing. I thought I understood methadone treatment. I had researched drug exposures and the long term effects. We were comfortable checking off almost all illegal exposures and chose to try to avoid as much as possible legal exposures (cigarettes and alcohol) though we were willing to discuss. I learned really fast that I knew NOTHING.
I dont know that I have ever stated that Baby Girl was an NAS (Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome) baby. This is a general name given to babies that are born exposed. Exposure can mean that the mother took illegal drugs or was a part of a methadone program.
Though I still dont plan on sharing exactly what exposures Baby Girl experienced I do think I am finally read to share my experience in the NICU. I wish I really understood what I was getting myself into.
Baby Girl is exceptional. She is at or above all milestones socially, language, fine motor and gross motor. She loves brussel sprouts more than pasta. She is funny. She is compassionate. She is totally potty trained (except for at night). I couldn't ask for anything more. She is 2 and thus wants to do things on her own, has her own mind, and chucks food she doesn't like (still figuring out how to break that habit).
She did take me on a ride that first month that I honestly was not ready for. I was a new Mom. I was in a city where I knew not a soul. I was new to adoption. I was new to NAS babies. I was a mess. My friends and family often comment on how impressed they were with what I did, but they didn't see me crying at her bed side, the desperate phone calls to DH, the sleepless nights, or my poor diet. I was a mess. I held it together because this girl that I had just met was worth fighting for but without her needs I would have fallen apart.
So over the next month I want to address a few topics:
- NAS babies
- Exposures and what they mean
- Working with/communicating with a substance user
- Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Speech
- The Finnegan Scale
- The experience of Weaning
- Being an "outsider"
- DCF and Private Adoption
- Opening an Adoption with Drug Exposures (my experience)
- Jail and Adoption
- How I explained a month in the hospital
- What I gained from my experience
Some of these I will pull together resources that will be helpful sprinkled with my own first hand experience. Other topics I will address more from my own perspective. None of the posts should replace doing your own research or consulting a pediatrician regarding your exposures checklist.