With Monkey’s first birthday quickly approaching I have been thinking more and more about how far he has come since he was born, and all the time we spent in the NICU last year. I know I was very lucky that Monkey did not have any major complications and was such a good size for a “32 weeker”. That said his 5 weeks in the NICU was the hardest time of my life. I thought I would write a series of posts about NICU life and how to cope and connect with your NICU baby from our experience and perspective.
How to cope with a baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)
Having a baby in the NICU comes with so many emotions – Not only are you still coming to terms with the fact that your baby is here, but you are dealing with the hectic and unknown world of the NICU.
I remember so many emotions during those first few days after Monkey’s birth.
|It was so hard seeing him hooked up to so many machines|
- Fear – What is going to happen? Will my baby be ok?
- Guilt – Why did this happen? What did I do to cause this?
- Sense of loss – I was sad to have missed the end of my pregnancy, I missed feeling Monkey inside me and knowing that he was safe
- Shock – How did the happen? We had an ultrasound 4 days before Monkey’s birth and everything was perfect then
- Powerless – Everything that was happening was out of my control
Give yourself permission to feel overwhelmed – because you will. There will be tears and you will feel like you are not in control, let these emotions out so you can then refocus on your baby.
Establish a routine – if you know you are going to in the NICU for the long haul establish a daily routine. Find a balance between time with your new baby and some time for yourself. For us, I went to the NICU for 9am stayed until 4, came home had dinner with Hubs and then we both headed back to the NICU for an evening visit around 7. We would return home again around 10pm head to bed and get up and do it all over again. It is OK to spend some time away from the NICU, having dinner at home allowed me to have a break from being at the hospital all day and allowed Hubs and I a few moments to connect.
Get to know the staff – Get to know the team taking care of your little one. This includes not only the doctors and nurses, but also the physiotherapists, occupational therapists and lactation consultant. If you have questions ask, these people are all excellent resources for information. Check to see if your NICU offers any seminars or if they have a parents handbook. Communication is KEY during your baby’s time in the NICU
Have a journal on hand at all times – use it to write down questions you want to ask, because trust me you won’t remember them all once the doctor arrives. Use it to record information given to you about your baby, and little milestones as you go along.
Accept help from others – Being a NICU parent is emotionally draining and all of your energy is going towards your little one. So if friends or family offer to cook, pick up groceries, clean or take care of anything else gladly accept the help and don’t put too much pressure on yourself
Connect with other NICU parents – reach out to other parents in your unit, or online. It feels great being able to talk to other parents who truly understand your feelings, frustrations and struggles. You build a NICU family to help support you, because only another NICU mama really knows what it feels like to have to leave your baby behind in the hospital night after night
Make the NICU your home away from home – Bring is some items that will make your time at the NICU more comfortable. I brought my laptop with me everyday so I could use the wireless internet to keep friends and family up to date, read about preemies, and watch some TV episodes to help pass the days. Bring a book, magazines, computer – whatever is going to help you be more relaxed.
The first few days are the hardest part until you get more familiar with the NICU, but you WILL get through it. There will be both ups and downs during the NICU stay, just take it one day at a time
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