When I pictured my birth experience, I never imagined that it would include a 14 day NICU stay. My due date was December 11, 2017 but severe pre-eclampsia and having contractions every 4 minutes led to a delivery via C Section on Nivember 3, 2017 at 01:17am. I didn’t get to really see my daughter for 3 hours after the delivery and didn’t get to hold her for about 10 hours due to her lung issues. She ended up on a CPAP machine to assist her labored breathing and narrowly avoided life support. She also needed to learn how to eat. It took a tough emotional toll on this momma and so I would like to pass on some tips to help get through.
- Ask questions. No question is a stupid question when your child is in the NICU. How else will you know how to advocate for what he/she needs? And if you feel fully informed, it makes you feel “in the loop” and can aid in processing what is going on.
- Step out of the unit every now and then. Go get a cup of coffee and sit outside or have a friend meet you for lunch. If you aren’t up for having visitors, meet some of the other NICU parents. They will know better than anyone what you are going through. You can learn how they are coping and they could have some helpful insight.
- Take care of yourself. This one annoyed me when the nurses would tell me to go home and rest. I couldn’t bear to leave her. In fact, I only went home for 3 nights and was gone less than 12 hours each time. But one morning I woke up, showered, did my hair and make up, and put real clothes on. I grabbed a latte on the drive in. And I felt so refreshed and ready to take on the scary beeps and alarms of the NICU. I wish I had done that more during that time.
- Celebrate the milestones! Something that comes naturally to full term babies can be quite difficult for preemies. I learned to celebrate the small things (gaining weight, lowering the oxygen, learning to eat) and it gave me hope.
- Bring something to do! The NICU can be a scary & lonely place. Time keeps going in the real world but stands still in the NICU. Bring your favorite book or try out some crafts. My husband and I spent one whole afternoon filling out Avery’s baby book. We researched current events to write about in the book and current costs of common household items. It made the day not so scary. I know some moms learned to crochet whole there and made their babies a blanket.
I hope this helped some of you mommas! NICU life doesn’t end at discharge. It will always be with you but, as time passes it will get easier. After a few weeks of counseling, I am starting to feel like me again and not so much of a paranoid mess. Take it one breath at a time and reach out if you need to talk or vent or cry or scream. Do whatever it takes to get through.
I would love to hear what helped you get through in the comments below.
A Caffeinated Momma ☕