No matter what you’ve seen before or what you are told by the nurses walking you out of the hospital, nothing really prepares you for seeing your baby for the first time in the NICU. After what felt like two days that would never end, I was finally discharged from the hospital; we quickly took care of a few things, then immediately embarked on the two-hour drive to Children’s. Upon arrival, we had to fill out tons of forms with admissions, get armbands, then fill out more forms with the NICU itself. Then we were shown the scrubbing station which everyone is required to utilize before entering the NICU which stood behind huge glass doors. Once inside, the nurses showed us the way to our baby. At only 4 lbs., 14 oz., she was so tiny. She had IVs, a feeding tube, EKG and blood pressure leads, and although she had been extubated, she was still hooked up to a breathing machine. Looking at her felt strange and foreign…for the longest time I did not want children, but I had a change of heart the previous fall. Still, I struggled with feeling a connection; my first question to the nurse was can we hold her. Of course! They pulled up a couple of large recliner/rocking chairs for my husband and I, and helped place her in my arms. Although I instantly loved her and thought she was absolutely beautiful, I still had a difficult time connecting. The nurses said that was totally normal, and to remember my hormones were going to be all over the place for quite some time affecting how I feel, so not to worry. Still, I couldn’t help it. I felt like I was already a horrible mom. I felt guilty that her first two days in this world were spent enduring painful procedures, not knowing either of her parents, and being kept in a loud, strange, sterile place. I wrestled with the fact that I had no control over the situation, that I could not protect her from all of this. Unfortunately, we could not stay at the hospital with her, for we have an elderly dog that we could not leave alone for too long and we had no one to watch. I got on the wait list for the Ronald McDonald house that was located next to the hospital – that was the only option since I was not going to be released to drive for at least two weeks due to having a cesarean. Although we had family willing to come out to help, we asked for space at that time while we tried to wrap our heads around everything. As time went on, I never did get into the Ronald McDonald house. We ended up driving back and forth to the hospital almost every day until she was finally discharged. And about that – when we spoke with the attending physician we asked when she thought approximate discharge would be; we were informed that with preemies, they usually don’t discharge them until they are within a week of their original due date as long as everything else is ok. My heart sunk. Our baby was seven weeks early…I thought there is no way I can handle her being in the NICU for six weeks.