Recently I read a post from a young mother who is lying in the hospital due to medical issues that will result in delivering her baby 10 weeks early. She was asking for any encouragement and/or advice from preemie parents on what you wish you knew before your NICU journey started.
Here are the top seven suggestions I wanted to pass on to my readers:
1. It will be a challenging journey, but remember, your little one will be in the hands of very qualified doctors and nurses. The first suggestion is to call the NICU and speak to someone about their policies and procedures. How are they handling visitation? What about dropping off milk? Do they have cameras for you to be able to watch your baby when you are away? If you can be there for doctor's rounds and meetings as possible, it can be beneficial to hear how your baby is doing, from their mouths. Are you allowed to request specific nurses that you may have built a secure connection with and want to continue working with? Will, your baby, be in a private room, or will they be sharing a room with other preemies?
2. Ask for help. The nurses, doctors, and others are there to help you. Lactation consultants are available to help you with problems are concerns regarding breastfeeding. The social workers will answer questions regarding special programs, healthcare, and insurance. They can set you up with resources you wouldn't think existed. Your friends and family that reach out and want to help - say yes. You may need to set boundaries, and that is good. They will need to be set in place when your little one comes home. The small things like dinners ready when you are home, or something available to warm-up will be very welcomed when you are going back and forth to the NICU.
3. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Asking nurses questions about your preemie's care, what this beep is saying, and what all these lines all mean. They are there to help you feel comfortable and promote the connection between you and your baby. Ask about holding your little one, when can you start your kangaroo time? Holding your baby will quickly become an extraordinary time for both you and your baby. As disconnected as you might feel at times, you always need to remember this is your baby, and you will be the one taking him or her home. Being prepared and knowing as much as possible will equip you better to handle things when you are the primary caregiver.
4. Try to set up a support system for those days that get tough. The emotional and physical drain that comes from being a NICU parent is real. Seeing your baby hooked up and being unable to touch is painful. Having someone to talk to is extremely helpful. This would be something a social worker will be able to help you find if you do not have a partner, friend, or available family member. It is also lovely to have the ability to join Facebook groups, and Reddit for preemie parents are an excellent resource for parents to ask questions and receive support.Remember, setbacks will happen. It sucks when they do. Your baby may go back and forth onto oxygen. They may go days without a breathing episode, and you are counting the days to being released only to have them have an event, and your clock is reset. These things are very upsetting and wear on your emotions. The NICU is definitely a rollercoaster ride, and you will need to have a hand to hold to get through it.
5. Another piece of advice is do not compare your child to other kids in the NICU. There may be a time when you share a room or get to know another mother whose baby goes home before your little one. All of a sudden, you are caught in a tailspin because your little one isn't ready. Please keep in mind that each precious preemie is on their own path, this also applies all through their lives, so comparing them to another baby doesn't ever do anyone any good!
6. This one may be tough for mothers to put into action! Take time for yourself. You need to be healthy both emotionally and physically for your preemie while in the hospital and especially when they come home. Giving birth drains you physically, and having your baby earlier than expected can definitely take a toll emotionally. So while your little one is being taken care of by professionals, give yourself some time to heal. Take those extra needed naps because it will be much harder when the baby is home! If you have children that are home, maybe this is the time you reach out to friends and family for those little visits that will allow you some me (nap) time.
Celebrate every little milestone, snap a lot of pictures! You will look back and say, "Wow," I guarantee it. Hold hands while they're in the incubator. Talk, read stories, sing just so your baby can hear your voice like they did while in the womb. Writing in a journal
is another excellent way to document this journey. Looking back and seeing how far you all have come is a great feeling.
Finally, I would like to add the encouragement we have all recently taken to heart "This too shall pass!" and "You are one day closer to going home!" The NICU journey is rarely, if ever, someone’s expected choice of a birth plan. But as often happens when we are challenged with hard things, this is when we learn the most. So with this rollercoaster ride you find yourself on, I hope you have a moment, months down the road that you can look back and see how far you and your little one have journeyed.
We are here to help with at least a little bit of what you might need. We have clothing, pacifiers, hats, socks, and a few other things we hope you will find helpful. I wrote a blog post on why clothing your preemie is good for you and them. I suggest that for your next reading. Here is a link
for your convenience. If you need any help, please feel free to reach out to us on chat or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for reading,
Cressie started the Preemie clothing brand Perfectly Preemie designing preemie clothing that fit the needs of preemie babies in 1993. She acquired the Preemie Store in 2018 to continue to offer great preemie products to parents all around the world.