Featured Journal

I’m not a visitor, I’m a NICU resident

Written by Stacey Skrysak

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Loud alarms, flashing lights, nurses rushing to a newborn’s bedside. The sights and sounds of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit are enough to cause nightmares. But for me, the “NICU” is my happy place.

It wasn’t that way on day one. I was unconscious the night my babies arrived in the NICU.  I was close to death, mourning the loss of one of my triplets. I laid in the ICU, which felt a world away from my children. Since day one, my babies were cared for in a special place, tucked away on the fourth floor of the Children’s Hospital in Springfield, IL. It really is a magical place, full of medicine and miracles. It’s a place where doctors don’t give up; instead they give hope to a baby who needs it most.

While many parents will never see the walls of the NICU, a select few have to let go of their child and let others care for them in their first precious days of life. It’s a scary thought. A mother’s instinct is to hold onto her newborn, but what if you can only look at your child through the glass of an incubator?

When you first arrive, you’re greeted with the constant sound of alarms.  A slow  beep with a yellow light…A fast red light with a loud alarm. For many new parents, the noises cause added stress to an already stressful situation, but not for me. I find the noises soothing. I can say that because my NICU baby is a resident, not just a brief visitor. Most people can’t relate to my family. We are on 100+ days in the NICU, not just a brief two or four week stay. Month after month, my husband and I have trekked to that 4th floor, twice a day, being the best parents we can possibly be.

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In the early days, we could only stare. Our two survivors, Parker and Peyton, were barely a pound each. They were so frail, all you could see were two precious miracles, only skin and bones. My babies were “22 weekers”, not even considered viable according to most hospitals. But the doctors and nurses didn’t give up on our survivors. Day after day, they treated my babies like regular newborns. Sure they were filled with wires and IV’s, needing specialized attention every second of the day. But not once did they make us feel like we should be alarmed. My husband and I quickly learned what the monitors were reading and what to look for when the alarms sounded off. Those moments when most people would be calling out for a nurse, we learned to relax. These nurses and doctors know what they are doing and we learned that trust was going to get through the toughest days.

For 100+ days, I’ve sat at my daughter’s bedside, happy to be in the NICU. Each day, means she is one day older, defying the odds yet again. I often say, “What’s the worst thing that could happen in the NICU”? Well, that’s easy–your child could die. Unfortunately, I know first hand that experience. After 55 days in the NICU, my son Parker joined his sister Abby in Heaven. Going back to the place where my son lived his short life was difficult, and it still is today, but I know the doctors and nurses did everything they could. They gave us two wonderful months with our son and a lifetime of memories.

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For 100+ days, the nurses have treated my children like one of their own. When my son passed away, they cried tears of sadness with me. But the NICU isn’t a sad place. In between the surgeries and the chaos, I’ve been able to see my children grow in slow motion. A simple moment like a child opening her eyes for the first time, means so much to us. It didn’t happen when my babies were first born, instead weeks after they first arrived. The day my daughter first cried was an emotional milestone. It didn’t happen the night she was born, it wasn’t until she was nearly two months old when we first heard a soft squeak.

The precious moments many parents take for granted, have been documented day after day in the NICU. Just this week, our doctor shared the news that she thinks our lone survivor will be coming home within a month. I sobbed right then and there. Not just because Peyton was going to finally start her life outside of the hospital walls, but because I will have to leave my new family behind. The NICU is a tight knit community, where those first few moments of life will stay with you for an eternity. It’s a place where I’ve made life long friends with nurses and other parents in similar situations. And while we will no longer see our new family on a daily basis, the NICU will forever hold a special place in our hearts.

About the author

Stacey Skrysak

Stacey Skrysak may not be a native of Nebraska, but she called it home for many years. You may recognize her from her days as a morning and noon anchor on NTV in Kearney. She liked Nebraska so much, she even married into a Cornhusker family! These days, Stacey lives in Springfield, Illinois where she is a news anchor for WICS-TV. Stacey and her husband are parents to Peyton, their surviving triplet, who was born more than 17 weeks premature. Abigail and Parker are their triplet angels watching from above. Through her heartbreaking experience, Stacey has become a voice for dealing with grief, infertility and life with a micro-premie. Her triplets have touched thousands of lives around the world, thanks to Stacey’s blog “Perfectly Peyton”. Stacey looks forward to sharing the trials and tribulations of balancing work and home life, all with a little humor thrown in.

16 Comments

  • Such an amazing story of Family, Love, Hope and Blessings. Prayers for continued health and happiness for your precious one and you both <3

  • Well said! NICU nurses are amazing people. In just the few days we’ve been there, they decorated signs to welcome our trio and brought coordinating outfits.

    And they’ve helped us understand those flashing yellow (and sometimes red) lights which at first startled us, but now give us hope when we see our little ones pull through their episodes quicky, sometimes on their own.

    Our nicu nurses have changed schedules to be with us and have been there literally from birth! They text us photos when we’re away and always share some optimism. Amazing place!

  • Thanks for sharing your story – today is the anniversary of a tragedy in my family that turned into a miracle. Keep believing in that Miracle of yours – she is beautiful and has already changed the world!!

  • Unbelievably touching, dear and heart-wrenching. I cannot imagine and pray I never have to know what it’s like loosing two little ones like this. Our thoughts and prayers for the continued success of Ms. Peyton!

  • This so made me cry. I am pleased that you share your story and I know its hard. The fact that its life and your willing to share the good and bad of the NICU. I was one that spent time in the NICU with my daughter she was born with prenatal asphyxia with the hopes of no brain damage and minimal problems, the NICU did just that she seems to be health for the most part just a little therapy for motor skills. Thanks again for sharing your story I keep up with it often.

  • Stacy – this is beautiful!! It is wonderfully written and touches the heart. You and Ryan are great parents and I commend you both on your strength and faith. Hoping and praying you get to bring the little Princess home soon!! Prayers coming your way!!

  • Your precious Peyton, your husband, and you are in my prayers each day for strength and growth. My sympathy is with you at the loss of Parker and Abby, but we have faith that God knows best for all of us. I was a big fan of yours when you were with NTV in Kearney and I came and did an “On the Menu” with you a few years ago. That was a fun experience for me. God’s blessings to you and your family. Julie Z

  • What a wonderfully written piece! Staff in the NICU are blessed with a God-given talent that wraps the family in a buffering cocoon while their baby grows and develops. The courage and strength you and Ryan have shown have been an inspiration. I am sure God knew you would strengthen others as you navigated this difficult journey. You continue to remain in our prayers, as does Peyton. May God’s hand bring your beautiful little girl home in strong health. Blessings.

  • Stacy, I got tears in my eyes when I saw that the doctor said she may come home in a month. That would be such a wonderful Thanksgiving gift. She is a wonderful gift for you and I know (even tho I don’t know you) that you will be the best parents any child can have. It has to be very hard on you but just the look of Peyton makes my heart melt. She is very beautiful and growing each day. I can see that in her pictures, and she will give you much job. Give her a little kiss from me even tho I am a stranger.

  • I cried, too, while reading this! I had forgotten about the alarms in the NICU. They were frightening for me–I was not only worried about my baby, but about the other babies when their alarms went off. My daughter is now 4 years old, with Cerebral Palsy, but happy and healthy. Thanks for writing this, Stacey!

  • Our boys spent time in two NICUs and they were both such an incredible support for us. That was very difficult for us to leave the incredible nurses who took care of our boys. Very well written.

  • My son was in the NICU at St. John’s for 206 days and the nurses and doctors became family to Drayce and I. He is still in the hospital just not in Springfield but I’ll never feel the same way about nurses.as I do them! They really loved Drayce as much as I do! They will forever hold a place in my heart! I became so accustomed to the nicu that I cried when we left! But July 29th, 2013 was the best day of our life! I admire your strength after losing two of your precious three! You are a true mommy warrior!