MILWAUKEE -- All day everyday, Sarah Nachman and her husband spend their time in a room at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, caring for their premature baby Abel.
"It's been hard to be here," said Nachman. "But the NICU team is very helpful, they're very involved, they let us be as involved as we are comfortable so we know how to take care of our baby so we can take him home."
The Nachmans are among dozens of parents at Children's Hospital who were expecting to ring in the new year with the birth of their child. Instead, their babies were born premature.
"There's no preparing for a baby to come that early and it's a huge shock and adjustment," said Dr. Nicole Rau, who has cared for Abel since he was first transferred to Children's.
Abel was diagnosed with spina bifida, a birth defect on the spinal cord, and had surgery in October while he was still in utero. He wasn't due until January 27. He family had scheduled a C-section for the first week in January but instead he was born on December 5.
"It's not as scary as it sounds," said Nachman. "Once we got a look at him, it didn't matter that he had spina bifida at all, he's our baby and we love him just as he is."
The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Children's hospital is the largest level IV unit in the state. It was also recently named one of the nation's best NICUs by the U.S. News and World Report.
Rau says that means they see the tiniest and the sickest babies from all over the region.
"A lot of it is just teaching parents that it's OK to hold your baby and how to do that and how to take care of this potentially three or four pound infant that they have now," she said.
Doctors at Children's are currently caring for 50 babies at the NICU. Over half of them were supposed to be born in 2017 like Abel.
"Our hopes for the new year are of course to get all of us home and have Abel come back to us healthy," said Nachman.
His doctors say they will likely get to go home the first week in January.
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