Tiny but Mighty: Tales from the NICU


In honor of World Prematurity Day, this post was co-written by NICU mamas Tricia Koebel, Candice Meyer & Steph Hampton.


Each baby who enters the world has their own story. NICU babies add quite a bit more adventure to that story. These babies are tiny but mighty, and conquer so much in their early lives. NICU parents are thrust into a world that is unexpected and out of their control. Both NICU parents and babies walk through the experience becoming warriors.

With World Prematurity Day on November 17th, here are some of our stories and things that have helped us mamas navigate the journey. 



My sweet Holly Therese was born three months early due to my severe preeclampsia and spent 58 days in the NICU. From natural labor from my first daughter to Holly’s emergency c-section, it was a whirlwind of guilt and confusion, but also joy and overwhelming love of meeting our baby for the first time. Because I was closely monitored after the c-section, I could not visit her for a few hours, and that was excruciating. Not holding her felt foreign. I was not prepared for how small she looked at 2 lbs, yet I don’t know if I could have ever prepared for all those emotions.


a mom and dad with their premature baby in the NICU


The fear, the tubes, the loud beeps and alarms, the yearning to be with my baby at all times, the need to rest. To this day, the hardest thing I have ever had to do was get discharged from the hospital without my baby. I was worried that Holly needed me and I wasn’t there for her. I felt split: one leg in the hospital and the other at home with my 2-year-old. Each day in the NICU was a blur with IVs, PICC lines, feeding tubes, CPAP, surgery, and countless blood draws. Little by little, she grew stronger.

My husband and I always knew how sacred life was, but we were in awe of a glimpse into the third trimester firsthand. Holly’s will to live was amazing. Little milestones were precious, such as breastfeeding, kangaroo care, and moving into an open-air crib. Our NICU staff was incredible and quickly became like family. Even though each day seemed like a blur, we were blown away by the positives and blessings we found in the hospital. The day we took Holly home was surreal and so joyous!! Now at 3 ½ years old, Holly is happy, healthy, and such a blessing!



Around 9 pm on December 27th, my life changed in the blink of an eye when my sweet Olivia Rose was born almost seven weeks early. Those first few days at the hospital were an absolute blur of overwhelm, exhaustion, fear, and uncertainty. So many of the mama moments I had looked forward to during my pregnancy vanished instantly. Newborn snuggles were replaced with acrobatics to navigate wires. Walking out of the hospital WITHOUT her will forever be etched in my memory— th0se steps were filled with so much grief and guilt. Olivia spent a total of 18 days in the hospital learning how to regulate her temperature and coordinate all of her reflexes required for eating/breathing. It was such a one-step forward, two-steps back type of process.


a premature baby with tubes and wires in the NICU


I’ll never forget what the attending neonatologist told us after Olivia’s delivery.  He saw the worried looks on our faces and calmly stated: “Olivia will be the person she is meant to be. She is just going to have a longer story.”  That little nugget of reassurance was such a comfort.



24 hours after his birth, my son was taken to the NICU when he failed his heart defect screening. They found he needed oxygen, and he was placed on a nasal cannula. In addition to testing for heart defects, our son had to undergo tests for other defects that affect the kidneys. I had to wait several hours before I could see him in the NICU. Once I saw my son in the NICU, I knew he was going to be okay.


a premature infant under a blue bill light in the NICU


While in the NICU, my son’s bilirubin levels were climbing, and needed the bili light. Despite the interventions, he had to get fluids to help bring his bilirubin level down since his feedings and bili light were not enough. I was discharged while he was in the NICU, and it was one of the hardest days I have experienced. Yet, the NICU nurses were amazing and took great care of my son. I trusted them to help them when I could not. It took three attempts at the car seat tests before he passed to go home. After a week in the NICU, my son was discharged with oxygen at home. Despite a defect that was repaired at eight months old, they determined he had difficulty transitioning from birth.


How Can You Help a NICU Family?


a split photo with a premature baby girl on the left and the same girl as a toddler on the right



If you know a mom going through this, reach out to help. We couldn’t have gotten through this experience without our wonderful family, friends, and neighbors. After our 2-year-old went to bed each night, friends and neighbors volunteered to sit at our house so my husband and I could visit Holly together. This was such a special time together! Friends offered to come and sit with us in the NICU room while I held Holly, which was so rejuvenating. My friends hosted a NICU shower where we decorated preemie onesies. Meals also helped tremendously!!

Things to help NICU families: Start a meal train, deliver a care package to the hospital with snacks, offer to pray with them, and print off photos of the family for them to hang up in the NICU room for decorations. Try to avoid saying, “Let me know how I can help,” and say, “I’d love to drop off a meal. Would today or tomorrow be better for you?” Give them a journal to keep track of the experience–this was very healing for me to write down. When they do bring their baby home, continue to reach out to them to see how they are doing. The grief comes in waves, and it is healing to share the experience with others, so offering to listen helps greatly! It is survival mode: everything else halts as you focus on the essentials (work, caring for other siblings). All the extra energy goes towards your NICU baby, so any help towards a NICU family is greatly appreciated.


a dad feeding a bottle to his premature daughter in the NICU



If you know a mama going through the NICU experience, please consider gifting them a meal. Porch deliveries of snacks/meals-to-go were absolutely invaluable to us during this emotional roller coaster. Try texting with specific offers to help instead of the generic, “Let me know if I can help!,” type of message. For example, send a variation of: “I’m dropping off a meal today- do you want broccoli soup or a taco bake?” If the family has other children, you could offer to take those siblings on a special adventure or babysit for an afternoon. Finally, don’t underestimate the powerful gift of listening. I’m so grateful to the dear friends and family that allowed me to share my story as it was unfolding. They stood with me in the awkwardness of waiting and walked the tightrope of providing hopeful encouragement without dismissing our very real fears. Keep reaching out to these NICU mamas with your love, even after the hospital stay… they need it!




Even though my son is almost 5 years old and doing well today, I’ll never forget what got us through those days. Family and friends rallied around us. Family helped with our laundry and cleaning. Friends brought us food. This helped my husband and me focus on our two children. My recommendation to those looking to help someone who has a baby in the NICU is to offer to babysit their other children or do household chores or bring food. Whether big or small, any act is helpful to the families of NICU babies.


Tiny, but mighty, these babies are destined to do great things. NICU families, you are warriors and are so strong, just like your babies. Keep your head up. You are never alone.