NICU babies are under some of the best care a parent could ask for. I was very pleased with the level of care my son received. Knowing that he was in good hands made his time there a little easier to manage emotionally.
Something that I wasn't quite prepared for was how I would feel and handle his stay. I knew he would be there after delivery but I still wasn't prepared for how his NICU stay was going to effect me. I was handed an pamphlet of helpful info during our first visit to see him. It covered everything from commonly used terms to what to do if you experience baby blues.
I had the baby blues so bad. I didn't think I would have them but I did. I would cry for no reason at all. I would cry when people asked how he was doing. I would cry when we would leave him for the night. I never wanted to leave. My husband would have to literally drag me out of the door so that I could get some sleep. It was intense. I would have to say that even though my blues got better as the days went on I didn't truly start to feel better until a couple days ago.
Complicated pregnancies and NICU experiences aren't in the dreams that women have when they imagine themselves pregnant. So when you find yourself in a position like that it's tough. People always give Kim K such a hard time because she's vocal about how much she hates being pregnant but what people don't understand is a complicated pregnancy is so bittersweet. Sweet because there's a sweet baby coming and that's a blessing. Bitter because going through a complicated pregnancy is one of the most miserable ways to spend the better part of a year. And no one ever talks about the Moms who can't help that they aren't "happy, glowing and pregnant". Some of us are literally just trying to make it to our due dates. Or as close to that date as possible.
So anyway, once you find yourself in an early delivery and a baby in the NICU be prepared to have all of the emotions. After my son's delivery I felt happy, relieved, angry, guilty, sad, embarrassed, tired and torn. Happy because he was here. Relieved that I was no longer pregnant and could start the road to getting better. Angry because I wasn't ready for it to be over. Guilty because I couldn't give my son the start every baby deserves. Sad because I felt like he was lonely in the NICU and needed me. I'm not sure why I was embarrassed but I was. Tired because I was trying to spend equal amounts of time at home and at the hospital. And torn because I never knew who to spend time with first or who to spend more time with.
If you start to experience baby blues or any signs of PPD please ask for help. Let someone know how you're feeling. Here are some of my tips for making your time as a NICU parent a bit easier...
Know that there is nothing you could have done to change things.
Visit as often as you can.
Breastfeed or pump milk for your baby.
Ask when they feed & change the babies and try to plan your visit for those times.
Don't be afraid to hold, feed and change your baby if it's ok.
Keep hand sanitizer with you at all times. (I can't smell Purell without thinking of the NICU.)
Ask questions and make sure you understand what's going on with your child. (The NICU staff does not mind you asking questions or asking to be involved in your child's care.)
Join the NICU Parent Support Group at your hospital if they have one.
Keep a bottle of water in your bag.
Get as much rest as you possibly can.
Let people help you. Let people help you. Let people help you.
Learn what all of the different monitor alarms mean.
Be familiar with the terms used in the NICU. (Nutritive, non-nutritive, grams to pounds conversion, etc.)
Take a night off. (Carissa from The Green Eyed Lady Blog gave me this tip. Visit her blog to read her NICU story and tips for parents.)
Label all of your baby's blankets and clothes if you choose to leave items at the NICU.
Take lots of pictures.
Keep a journal of your child's care or write down the big milestone's in a baby book.
If your child is still preemie size when discharged make sure you have a car seat suitable for babies four pounds & up. (We used the Chicco Keyfit30. He was 4lbs5oz when he came home.)
Talk to your spouse, family and friends about the baby's progress.
Don't be ashamed.
Cry when you need to.
Have a small quiet family dinner at home when your baby is released. Celebrate their arrival.
I hope these tips help someone on their on NICU journey. If you have a family member or friend with a child in the NICU offer to help them in some way. Babysit their kids at home, bring them a meal or simply just offer to be a listening ear.
So many of my friends made dinner for my family while we waited on my Mom to come help us. It was one of the biggest blessings I could have asked for and I appreciated it so much.
Also, if you have newborn or preemie size baby clothes that you need to get rid of consider donating them to your local hospital.
Thanks again for reading about our #grandfinalebaby's journey. We are so happy to have little Moses home with us now.