Birth Story: Katie

Nobody warns you about life in--or after--the NICU.

Birth Story: Katie

It was a sunny afternoon in February, exactly 6 months to the day from when my son, Beckett, was born. My husband and I had taken the afternoon off to take Beckett to his check-up at the pediatrician’s office. After dealing with the trauma of his premature birth at 33 weeks, and a nearly 8-week stay in the NICU, we both try to attend each of Beckett’s doctor’s appointments, eager to hear that he is progressing as he should be, and that any developmental concerns related to him being born prematurely are fading away.

Thankfully this was all affirmed, and we were told it was time to start solids. But instead of feeling excited about this new adventure, I felt anxious. As a working mom, our nanny would be responsible for many of my son’s feedings. This feeling--a perceived loss of agency and control--brought me back to those first several weeks of Beckett’s life.


Beckett was born via emergency C-section on August 19th as the result of a placental abruption. Up until that day, my pregnancy had been extremely normal. While I was aware of and prepared for the fact that his delivery, whenever and however it happened--even if at full term--could not be scripted, I had a vision in my head of what certain aspects of it would be like; I could see clearly, for example, the happy family photo we would take right after he was born, his dad and I smiling proudly as we held our new son.

That was not to be. I was able to kiss Beckett very briefly right after he was born--still in the operating room--and then he was whisked off to the NICU for evaluation. I was unable to see him again until the next afternoon.

The days that immediately followed were a blur. It was a surreal experience waking up no longer pregnant, and instead of having my son in my room with me, having to be wheeled by my husband to the NICU several floors away. Seeing Beckett for the first time there, closed off from us in a covered plastic bassinet and connected to various machines and monitors, was overwhelming.

We were very fortunate that he was born at a healthy weight for being premature, but he struggled in other ways. He required various medical interventions early on to address apnea and a lack of sufficient surfactant, the sticky substance that keeps the lungs from collapsing. Throughout his hospitalization, he also experienced Bradycardia events related to apnea as well as acid reflux, during which his heart rate would become dangerously slow and he would not have sufficient oxygen. And while he is quite the eater now, Beckett was only able to eat through a feeding tube at first, having not developed the ability to coordinate the sucking, breathing and swallowing reflexes required for bottle and breastfeeding before being born.

As I recovered from his birth, I longed to hold Beckett, but it would be four days before I would be able to be that close to my son. I briefly held him in the NICU for the first time just prior to being discharged from the hospital myself. The lack of immediate physical connection right after his birth and in the days that followed continues to sadden me.

After my discharge from the hospital, my husband and I reluctantly settled into a routine of daily visits to the NICU. Even as Beckett’s mother, I felt I had very little agency in his care. Sure, the nurses encouraged me to change his diaper and do the feedings, but for the bulk of his stay, I had to ask permission to engage in such activities. This even included the simple act of holding him. When I was away from the NICU, I was at the mercy of overworked hospital staff when requesting updates on Beckett’s status by phone.

I felt there was very little I could do for Beckett to advance his development and move him closer to being released aside from working to establish and maintain my milk supply and trying to will the heart rate and breathing monitors to not dip to rates that indicated he was in distress.

I was fortunate in that I was able to establish and maintain an adequate milk supply; this is something that proves very difficult for many mothers with babies in the NICU because of the physical separation. I was less fortunate in trying to will him out of the NICU.

Each day, we hoped that Beckett would strengthen enough to be sent home. But what was originally thought would be a stay of two to three weeks, turned into four and then five and then almost eight. On more than one occasion, we were within several hours of Beckett’s discharge only to find out--or worse yet witness first hand--that he had had another Bradycardia, thus pushing his discharge date back again.

We longed for five days in the clear, which was necessary for his release. Words cannot describe how difficult it was to leave the hospital so many nights in a row without my son, while at the same time witnessing other parents leaving each day with their healthy, presumably full-term babies.

Finally it was our turn to be the happy parents leaving the hospital with our baby. It is natural for any new parent to be nervous about taking their baby home from the hospital, but after spending weeks obsessing over monitors and trusting them to give an indication if Beckett was in distress, I had trouble believing that all would be fine once we were home and without such aids. I was so anxious about this that my husband, mother-in-law and I took turns staying awake so as to have someone constantly monitoring Beckett during this first week home to ensure that his health was not in danger.

Despite my joy in bringing him home, I struggled for months to feel connected to Beckett in a way that I imagined mothers who are able to bring their babies home sooner after birth do. Thankfully, our connection has improved significantly since then--we grow closer and closer each week.

But I still struggle at times to see myself as his mother because I am not always sure that he sees me this way. I fear that he still sees me as just another caregiver in a rotating cast, like I was in the NICU--that there is nothing differentiating me from the others. I know logically that this is not true. In fact, Beckett shows me each day that it isn’t with the happiness and affection he directs toward me. But I struggle with it emotionally nonetheless. I simply want to feel differently about this--to put this doubt out of my mind and to truly 100% feel that I occupy a special place in his life that cannot be filled by anyone else.

I am beyond thankful that Beckett is growing into the strong boy that he is, and I realize how fortunate we are, given his good health now. I love him more than I ever imagined possible and delight in each development--every smile he makes and even his stellar burping skills. I simply hope that, as Beckett has clearly moved on from the NICU, I will be able to do so as well someday.

To all of the mamas out there with babies in the NICU, my heart goes out to you. You are always in my thoughts.

These are the best bath time products you can get for under $20

These budget-friendly products really make a splash.

With babies and toddlers, bath time is about so much more than washing off: It's an opportunity for fun, sensory play and sweet bonding moments—with the added benefit of a cuddly, clean baby afterward.

Because bathing your baby is part business, part playtime, you're going to want products that can help with both of those activities. After countless bath times, here are the products that our editors think really make a splash. (Better yet, each item is less than $20!)

Comforts Bath Wash & Shampoo

Comforts Baby Wash & Shampoo

Made with oat extract, this bath wash and shampoo combo is designed to leave delicate skin cleansed and nourished. You and your baby will both appreciate the tear-free formula—so you can really focus on the bath time fun.

Munckin Soft Spot Bath Mat

Munchkin slip mat

When your little one is splish-splashing in the bath, help keep them from also sliding around with a soft, anti-slip bath mat. With strong suction cups to keep it in place and extra cushion to make bath time even more comfortable for your little one, this is an essential in our books.

Comforts Baby Lotion

Comforts baby lotion

For most of us, the bath time ritual continues when your baby is out of the tub when you want to moisturize their freshly cleaned skin. We look for lotions that are hypoallergenic, nourishing and designed to protect their skin.

The First Years Stack Up Cups

First year stack cups

When it comes to bath toys, nothing beats the classic set of stackable cups: Sort them by size, practice pouring water, pile them high—your little one will have fun with these every single bath time.

Comforts Baby Oil

Comforts baby oil

For dry skin that needs a little extra TLC, our team loves Comforts' fast-absorbing baby oil aloe vera and vitamin E. Pro tip: When applied right after drying off your baby, the absorption is even more effective.

KidCo Bath Toy Organizer

KidCo Bath Organizer

Between bathing supplies, wash rags, toys and more, the tub sure can get crowded in a hurry. We like that this organizer gives your little one space to play and bathe while still keeping everything you need within reach.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

Becoming a mother has been life-changing. It's been hard, tiring, gratifying, beautiful, challenging, scary and a thousand other things that only a parent would ever understand.

It is these life-changing experiences that have inspired me to draw my everyday life as a stay at home mom. Whether it's the mundane tasks like doing laundry or the exciting moments of James', my baby boy's, first steps, I want to put it down on paper so that I can better cherish these fleeting moments that are often overlooked.

Being a stay-at-home-mom can be incredibly lonely. I like to think that by drawing life's simple moments, I can connect with other mothers and help them feel less alone. By doing this, I feel less alone, too. It's a win-win situation and I have been able to connect with many lovely parents and fellow parent-illustrators through my Instagram account.

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