What It’s Like to Be a NICU Mother


The first time I saw my baby he was only a tiny bundle wrapped in wires inside a plastic box, face obscured by a breathing mask and bathed in purple light. I cried. It looked like something out of a sci-fi movie.

“Your water broke.
You are completely dilated.
Your baby is breech.
He needs to come out now.”

Not the words you want to hear at 24 weeks pregnant.

There were no warning signs. There was no way to prevent it. There was nothing that caused it. We don’t know why it happened. I don’t care why so much anymore. Every day is more about how. How is my baby doing? How can I help? How do I get through the day?

Micro-preemie. That’s what they called Xander. Strong, stable, secure—all adjectives to describe our baby. He would have to fight every day. As his mother, I would fight, too.

One step forward—no episodes today, keeping down feedings, feisty. One step back—a couple of episodes, lost some weight, sleeping.

Wires. Tubes. Blood draws. Brain scans. Monitors beeping. My life has become one long episode of a hospital drama. Emotions swirl in my chest like a hurricane. Some days I can find the calm in the eye of the storm, but more often than not, I’m caught in the 100-mile winds, struggling to stay afloat.

The ground isn’t always crumbling beneath my feet. With every weight gain, extubation, little whimper… feeling my baby grasp my finger—it brings tears of joy, too.

I am a NICU mother. I am happy and sad and amazed and angry and so very full of love. I can’t wait to bring my baby home.

Are you a NICU mother? What was your experience like?

Rachel Matacchiero is 29 years old and a 4th grade teacher. She lives in Seminole Florida with her husband Zach and 3-year-old son Miles. On January 6, 2022, her second son Xander was born 16 weeks early. Her family’s world was rocked.

After two years of struggling to get pregnant and going through the motions of secondary infertility, she finally had her dreams come true when she witnessed that first positive pregnancy test. She thought her struggles were over.

It’s been 11 weeks since Xander entered the NICU and this journey is only about halfway through. But they know he is STRONG and they are grateful and hopeful.


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