By Cindy Subach, mother of Michaela Subach (first-person account in honor of NICU Awareness Day, Sept. 30, 2022)
It was Sunday, July 25, 2021, at 2 am, when I was frantically tapping my husband on the shoulder. He asked, “What’s wrong?” I followed with, “I think we have to go to the hospital. I think my water broke.” We were concerned. At 31 weeks pregnant, my labor was incredibly early. We were scared for our daughter.
At Vassar Brothers Medical Center, I had time to have one dose of betamethasone, which can help speed up lung development for preterm babies. At 6:45 pm, I was fully dilated. It was time to push.
Holding preemie ‘amazing’ but ‘scary’
Michaela was born at 7:15 pm that evening. Because she didn’t require any supplemental oxygen, my husband, Mike, and I were able to hold her. It was such an amazing feeling, but also a scary one.
She was so tiny at 3 pounds, 13 ounces. When we visited with her in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit), we worried about how to hold her so her oxygen levels wouldn’t drop or so we didn’t get tangled in all the wires that were monitoring her vitals.
Cindy, Mike and baby Michaela Subach pose for their first family photo,7/25/21
Michaela in her neonatal incubator at Vassar Brothers’ NICU
Having to the leave the hospital knowing we couldn’t bring Michaela with us was truly one of the hardest things we have ever had to endure and led to a very tearful drive home.
NICU Awareness Day
Sept. 30 is Neonatal Intensive Care Awareness Day — a day to recognize premature infants, the strength of their families and the work of our NICU healthcare professionals.
Because Michaela was 9 weeks early, she hadn’t developed the “suck, swallow, breathe” technique most newborns are usually born with. She had a nasogastric tube in her nose that provided her nutrition.
Cindy holds Michaela for skin-to-skin cuddles
Two steps forward, one step back
Mike and I would visit Michaela twice each day and would help with her bottle feedings and encourage her as much as we could. Some days were more frustrating and upsetting than others. Some days we celebrated small victories such as drinking a few more milliliters than the last feeding. But it felt like every time we moved forward, we ended up having a small setback.
The NICU nurses were always there for us, providing support. They treated Michaela like she was their own, always giving her cuddles and playing with her. Our nurses and doctors became family and Vassar Brothers our second home. They provided support when Mike and I needed it the most and when we didn’t even realize we needed it. They are absolutely amazing.
Mike holds Michaela in the Vassar Brothers NICU
Looking back, it was incredibly hard leaving the hospital without Michaela and driving home without our baby, but we took comfort in knowing she was in the best hands with the best staff in the best NICU. Michaela was discharged from the NICU on Sept. 20, 2021 — six days before her due date.
Today, she’s a happy, healthy and perfect toddler.
A recent photo of Michaela
Related patient story: Emergency C-section at 28 weeks: Dylan’s story
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*** This story is one patient’s experience, recounted here for educational and general informational purposes only. Individual results may vary.