Life in the NICU
The obstetrician stood on the other side of the delivery room, putting on his gown and gloves. “Take a practice push,” he told me.
So I did.
Our son, Maverick, shot right out and my husband caught him. Apparently after having two other babies before that, I no longer needed practice. I have never seen a doctor dive across a room so fast.
That whirlwind of a delivery was the starting point of a saga that would last several weeks because Maverick was born dying. I thought I had a normal pregnancy, but Maverick had contracted a rare bacterial infection in utero. He arrived a couple weeks before his due date in a last-ditch effort to survive.
We live in a rural area, so I delivered Maverick in a hospital that doesn’t have a NICU. Therefore, he was immediately transported by ambulance to a town two hours away to receive treatments in their NICU. I basically gave birth, took a shower, checked out of the hospital, and left to go be with Maverick. My husband and I weren’t allowed to be in the ambulance with him because there was so much equipment for Maverick that there wasn’t enough room for us.
We repeated that pattern again a few days later when the neonatologists at that NICU realized Maverick was not improving. In fact, he was doing worse. He was then sent to a specialized children’s hospital three hours south, and he was put in the “room of last resort” where he could receive the few treatments that existed to help babies with his complications. His situation was dire, and no one held out much hope.
All of it is a blur to me. There is something strange that happens in the mind of a mother whose child is dying. Fear takes over, and everything moves in slow motion. I lost track of days and time. I was never hungry, but I was never quite full, either. I slept, but I was always awake. I pumped breastmilk every two hours in the hope that one day Maverick would be able to eat it, but I sobbed the entire time knowing he may never get that chance.
My husband and I sat in Maverick’s NICU room for hours, days, and eventually weeks. We weren’t allowed to hold him or even touch him while he was sedated. The hospital staff wanted him to focus all his energy on healing, and they didn’t want our touch to distract him from that. I experienced an ache that I cannot fully describe. Mothers are supposed to hold their babies, nurse them, and cuddle them. I was not able to do any of that, and I felt very alone even though I was surrounded by people.
Wondering what Maverick’s outcome would be nearly made me crazy. Not knowing is harder than knowing. Wondering every moment was excruciating. I wanted answers, and I wanted security. I received neither.
But then one morning we walked into the NICU to resume our vigil at Maverick’s bedside, and the neonatologist met us at the door. I immediately assumed the worst, and my heart felt like it was pounding through my ribcage. That’s when the doctor told us, “I have no idea how this happened, but Maverick is improving. We’re seeing all the signs we’ve been waiting to see.”
And that began Maverick’s journey to healing.
Within a few weeks, Maverick was well enough to come home with us. He was able to nurse and be held. Our other two children snuggled him and welcomed him home. We hadn’t been home in weeks, and it felt so good to just be a family.
We didn’t “return to normal” right away. Normal is something I’m not sure I’ll ever feel again. Maverick is a miracle, and there is nothing normal about that. We’ve had to be overly cautious about his health. Friends and family had to follow strict precautions when visiting during his first year, and he’s had a couple health scares since then. We all had to heal after that experience— physically and mentally. But now, 12 years later, our new normal is wonderful. Maverick is healthy, happy, and never sits still. That baby that literally shot out of me during his delivery has not stopped moving since then. We’ve also added two more children (they’re twins) to our family, which makes five kids total. That’s our normal now, and we’re loving every minute.
Carrie Sharpe is a Communication Consultant and Speaker at He says, She says. She has been married to her husband, Ryan, for over nineteen years. They have five children, including twin daughters. During their marriage they have experienced everything from financial strain to miscarriages to the life-threatening illness of their son, Maverick. Carrie describes that experience in her signature talk, “Trusting God With Our Maverick.”
Carrie believes that the foundation of every great relationship is effective communication, so she loves to help people overcome communication challenges and strengthen their relationships. She coaches clients in public speaking, marriage and family communication, workplace communication, and pageant interview skills.
Carrie earned her degree in Political Science and Psychology from Lake Superior State University. She homeschools her children full-time, and she runs her communication business from home. Carrie also has over twenty-five years of pageant experience-- competing in them, judging them, emceeing them, and coaching contestants in interview skills. She is a Huffington Post Contributor and has been quoted in a variety of publications. Carrie has spoken across the United States and Canada about marriage, relationships, and communication skills.