Hand to Hold's Official Blog: Written by Parents for Parents

My Visit to the NICU

Inside the NICU

© Amanda Wintenburg Photography

I brought my preemie to visit the NICU and her primary nurse this week.  We got to see one of the OTs and another nurse I knew as well, and it was quite an experience for me.

This is not the first time I’ve returned to visit the NICU.  I’ve been back twice before with my preemie, and all three times I was surprised at how I felt going back.

The first time I returned to visit the NICU was when my preemie was 11 months old and she had only been out of the NICU for 8 months.  I was really nervous before arriving because I thought it might be hard for me to be back in the NICU and that I would have an emotional breakdown.  What surprised me was how comforting the smell was when I walked into the NICU, and how at home I felt.  It was like coming home when you’ve been gone for months.  I recognized almost everyone (staff), and they knew me as well.  I felt totally comfortable there and wanted to wash my hands and move in for a few hours.  It felt good to be back.

The second time I visited my preemie was barely 2 years old.  This time I thought for sure most of the staff would have forgotten me, and I would feel estranged from the NICU world.  I did not.  I walked in and felt right at home again.  The receptionist knew me, and word spread that my preemie was visiting and many staff members came to say hello:  doctors, nurses, NNPs, OTs, and even RTs.  even more than I could remember their names.  It was like catching up at a family reunion – I loved it!  I could tell that my girl’s primary nurse was very happy to see her and that all of the staff were excited to have a graduate return.

This time, two days ago, 1 1/2 years had passed since my last visit, and again I was a bit anxious but I was sure it would be a comfortable experience like my first two visits had been.  I was surprised when my feelings were very different.  I got nervous before the visit again, and even though I knew exactly where to go and what I would find there, I was a little extra frightened.  Walking down the hall toward the NICU the sights, sounds, and smells of the NICU took me in.  I did not feel comfortable or at home this time.  My heart started to race and I was scared – frightened of the tiny babies struggling to survive behind those closed doors.  I was frightened of the sorrow, the stress, the fear, and the loneliness of the NICU.  It amazed me that I had ever learned how to survive in that atmosphere.

I wonder if I felt that way because I’ve had a full-term baby since my last visit to the NICU, and I’ve watched her grow so easily and healthily.  I’ve witnessed how a baby’s first few months of life should be, I’ve felt the peace and joy of a full-term delivery, and I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to take my newborn baby home from the hospital with me.

I am so frightened of having another preemie that I don’t know if I will ever risk having another baby of my own.  (I came to this conclusion long before this week’s NICU visit)  After having a full-term baby, I don’t know if I could survive the NICU again.  It was very hard to be back.  However, it was still a pleasure to have a reunion with my girl’s primary nurse, another wonderful nurse, and one of my awesome OTs.  I do not regret my visit one bit.

Have those of you with NICU graduates returned to the NICU for a visit?  How did it go?

Afton Mower About Afton Mower

After Mower (UT) lost her firstborn son at 21 weeks.  Her daughter was born a year and a half later at 27 weeks.  The NICU was overwhelming and isolating and it was through those two experiences she was led to found this social hub for parents to find the support they needed. Afton also gave birth to another daughter, born two days overdue after four months of strict bedrest. She believes it is a tender experience to hold a special baby in your arms when his spirit returns to his heavenly home, a miracle to watch tiny babies survive the risks of prematurity and a blessing to hold a healthy full-term baby after months of difficulty and sacrifices.


  1. I have not been back to the actual NICU to visit, however the hospital my son was at has an annual reunion for all of the babies and families to attend. It’s exciting to see all of the Nurses, OT’s, Doctors, and the other families and their children. My son’s primary nurse is now a friend on my Facebook and I send her Christmas Cards each year so she can see how my son is doing. Because of my experience with my son in the NICU, I’m going to school to be an RN, and possibly a NICU nurse.

  2. JDannhauser says:

    I have been back twice already and my son is only 8 months old. We had two primary nurses so we went twice to see each one. My feelings were similar to your first visits, nervous and scared but then happy. We also visited the L&D ICU were I stayed for 3 weeks prior and I was shocked that almost the whole staff came out to see me. I am friends with the L&D nurses on facebook but my NICU nurses are not on there or else they would be.

  3. I was googling NICU visits with older preemies to see if anyone had ever gone back when I found this. We actually did go back for 2 visits with our twin 28wk boys when they were very young (<2 yrs), and we just got the idea to take them back this weekend so they could get a perspective of where they started out. They are now 12 years old! I have very mixed feelings about going back, on one hand I want to thank everyone who is still there for their passion and dedication to my boys which helped see them through some really tough times and get them to where they are today – healthy, happy 12 year olds. On the other hand I dread the feelings that might come back as I relive some of the most difficult times in my life. It's really more about my boys and the NICU staff though, so I still think it's important to go. I want my boys to have an appreciation for how far they've come.

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