When your baby ends up in the NICU it can be sometimes expected, or often times, very unexpected. If you are reading this because this happened to you, I'm so sorry. There are so many emotions you may be dealing with surrounding your child's birth, and now having to visit them in the hospital. You get a crash course in how to be a NICU mom and that just entails surviving the first few weeks. You learn that some nurses are nicer than others. Some more sensitive than others. Some make you feel good, and other make you feel guilty whether they mean to or not. You just start to learn about this new world and how it works. You learn a whole new set of new vocabulary....very quickly. And you also learn that this hospital, and this small room with your baby or big room is now part of your home. And the people who are taking care of your baby, in many cases, become part of your family. And after a few weeks, or sometimes months, when it's time to go home, you find it hard to leave. It's ironic. A place you never wanted get to know becomes familiar and comforting. The NICU.
So, here are a few tips:
- Take time for yourself. REALLY. Take a morning to go buy a few things for your baby. Or a morning to read and get up slowly instead of rushing to the NICU. It's SO hard to do this, but so good for your soul when you take some breaks and pace yourself. The NICU is a marathon- not a sprint. I'm sure someone has said that to you by now. So, it's a marathon for your baby and for you. You don't want to run yourself down and get sick. It's okay. You're still a good mom, even if you take a break. In fact, that is a way you are caring for your baby. Making sure that you stay healthy.
- Take time for you and your husband to connect. I know this is HARD too. But, looking back, I'm glad Bryan and I had all those dinners out coming to and from the NICU and all those drives together going to and from the NICU. It was time for us to talk, and that was good. It's hard to feel like you can go to a movie, or do anything "fun". So, do what you are comfortable with. For us, we ate out....more once our meal calendar expired. That was SUCH a blessing too. There's something about homemade food that is such a treat. So, the point is- slow down together- eat together, whatever slowing down may look like...try to do that together from time to time.
- DON'T stress about pumping! This is SO HARD too. But, really...just do the best you can. Whatever you are getting is good for your baby and going to help him or her. And use the lactation consultants. They are there to help you. So ask them questions. I had to have one actually push on my boobs for me to show me that I wasn't getting milk out efficiently! But, this is something I feel like I hear over and over again is preemie moms stressing about how much milk they are getting and people telling them it's not enough and then in the same breath telling them "not to stress" about it. It drives me crazy when I hear this! You are going through so much. Take a deep breath, and look at what you are getting. And just keep at it. They say it takes 2 weeks to get your full supply up. I would say mine grew for almost a month before leveling off. Try.not.to.stress.
- Get to know your nurses and doctors. Talk to them. Be friendly. When people like you they are going to take better care of you! It's hard sometimes to think outside or yourself and what's going on, but it will feel good to talk about something else. We had so many serious, and then some light and funny conversations with nurses and got to know many very well. Bryan is the expert at making conversation though...I would often just follow his lead. Especially in the beginning. I couldn't put my thoughts together for a while, so we definitely didn't start up the friendly chatter right away! This was more after Asher was stable. And also, I was so "Asher focused" when I would visit-- I think that's common for mom's and nurses know that. But, it will benefit everyone if you are friendly and make conversation.
-Make an effort to get to know other parents. This is your home now....it makes sense to get to know some of the other people there! And again, it gets you outside of yourself. Bryan, again, was such a leader on this. And that started back in our bedrest days on the antepartum floor at Baylor. After getting over the initial shock of my water breaking, Bryan began to lead out on the idea that us being there was not all about us. God had a purpose for it. And part of that purpose was to meet and encourage others. I was so proud of him for leading us in this. Because it took me while longer to get there. I wasn't sure the people who were at 34 weeks needed prayers like we did sitting at 20 weeks! That is so selfish to say, but it's true. Just being honest. God had to work on my heart a little. And slowly, He did. We realized everyone on the antepartum floor was scared. Everyone was worried about their baby coming too early. And it wasn't right to compare the details. So, once we were in the NICU we met several parents, some of whom we keep up with and are still friends with, which is such a blessing.
- Find a way to update family and friends that takes some time and stress off of you. For us, this was Facebook. It is exhausting to give a personal update to everyone you know. You just can't do it. Some days it's so much for just your brain to process what is going on with your baby...let alone trying to repeat it several times! Maybe you can update on a blog, on Facebook, or have a friend be your "point person" who sends out emails, or makes calls...whatever helps alleviate some pressure or stress off of you.
-Breathe. Trust. Pray. We believe that God plans out every step our lives and also the life of our son. Believing that, and resting in that can give you a lot of peace as you navigate the roller coaster of the NICU. Hang in there. You will be home one day with your baby, and it will be such a sweet day.
I didn't find a lot of books on this topic, but here's one I did find and enjoy. It's called Prayers from the NICU by Jeanna J. Plunkett. It's set up in a journal format, so I liked that because in the early days of having a micro preemie, there wasn't anything I could do- literally when I visited him. I could look at him, and every 3 hours or so I could maybe touch his finger, and then eventually, change his diaper and take his temperature. So, I found this to be a "productive" thing to do and read and write in while I was visiting him. I didn't want to just sit and let my brain wander, so I found that this was good because it focused my thoughts on God. The things the author writes about hit home with me in almost every single chapter. I felt I had found someone who understood what being a NICU mom was like.
4 weeks ago