How to Survive NICU Life

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.

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I would love to hear what helped you get through in the comments below.

Love,

A Caffeinated Momma ☕

5 Comments

  1. For us, NICU was expected we just didnt know for how long or with what health issues so it was very different than for those parents that ended up there without having time to mentally prepare. As the girls had virtually no big health issues it was really good for me. NICU time prepared me to bring them home feeling confident I could take care of them. Seeing also little fighters next to mine that were born with half a kilo and were pulling through was inspiring. But above all what allowed us to deal for 6 weeks with the beeps and the jumping when the phone rang was to take it one day at a time and to keep in sight the next goal and the next one etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have heard that having time to prepare yourself makes it much easier to process. I also have heard of mommas touring the nicu and learning what to expect is helpful. Not being prepared was the hardest part for me. I work at the hospital and had a headache and high BP so I walked down to triage and thought I would go back upstairs to work but instead had an emergent C sec for severe pre-eclampsia. I had no time to process. Focusing on goals is nice too. Our nurses would write goals on the white board and check then ✔ them off as she reached them.

      Thanks for the great response!

      Like

    1. Hi Jackie! Thank you! We are doing much better now! I ended up in counseling for an acute anxiety disorder which has really helped and my daughter is doing so great now! She was on oxygen for 6 weeks after discharge and struggled with weight gain for a bit but now is doing awesome and can even exclusively breast feed now (very difficult for preemies to learn so we worjed with an LC at her pediatric office). She is almost 4 months old and now just over 11 lbs! She is the sweetest and just rolled over for the first time recently too!

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      1. Thank u for sharing your story. Anxiety is not fun, I suffer from it myself. Glad counseling helped you find your way back to you! Sometimes it blurs our vision, if you know what I mean. I’m so glad to hear your baby girl is healthy! Thanks to her Mama! Aww breastfeeding is a challenge too, but it’s a wonderful time to bond. LC are a life savor aren’t they? Yay she rolled over! Best wishes

        Liked by 1 person

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