Pregnancy Diary: An Unexpected Stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care

By: Courtney McCrimmon

At 9 pounds and 12 ounces, Duncan was the largest baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC when he was born. The nurses had to find him diapers that fit because the preemie and newborn diapers were too small for him. He didn’t fit into the little t-shirts so many of the NICU babies wore so the nurses found him special outfits, as well, until he was allowed to wear the clothes we brought him.

The nurses who work in Magee’s NICU are amazing.

duncanA NICU stay for my second child was the furthest thing from my mind when I went into labor three days after his original due date.  I had many other concerns, like whether or not I’d be able to handle the pain of labor this time around without an epidural (no) and whether I could successfully deliver my baby (yes), but a NICU stay wasn’t one of them.  As I understood it, the NICU was for premature babies, multiple babies, small babies – none of which I was carrying. Duncan was overdue, singular and large.

As someone who manages public relations for Magee, you think I’d know better. The truth is, you never expect to need a hospital’s specialty services, and then suddenly, you do.

Duncan was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and a pneumothorax – an abnormal collection of gas– on his right lung.  He required extra oxygen, a feeding tube and round-the-clock care.

I think his first days will forever be ingrained on my heart.  Intellectually, I understood he was receiving the best care possible, but that understanding didn’t do much to help rationalize the overwhelming fear I felt watching my newborn son labor to breathe beneath an oxygen tent, or help fill the hole in my heart as I listened to other newborns cry from their mothers’ rooms late at night.

Five days after his birth, I was able to take Duncan home.  His stay was relatively short compared to so many other NICU babies, and for that I was grateful.  I left Magee’s NICU with a thriving newborn boy and the highest respect for the doctors and nurses who cared for him during his time there. They saved my little boy’s life and in doing so, mine as well.

duncan1This year, I’ll be attending the 2014 NICU Reunion as a UPMC employee and as the mother of a NICU graduate.  The event, which will be held Sunday, June 1 at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, benefits the NICU’s Parent Advisory Council, which provides support services to parents with babies in the NICU. Like so many other NICU parents, when I took Duncan home I also took with me a steadfast commitment to do whatever I could to support the NICU in the coming months and years, and I know attending the annual NICU reunion is just the beginning of what I hope to be able to contribute to this amazing group of people.

You never expect to need a hospital’s specialty services, and then suddenly, you do.  And you are so, so grateful they exist.

For more information and to purchase tickets to this year’s 2014 NICU Reunion, visit, keyword search “Kids & Critters the NICU Reunion.”