Here is my official guide to surviving your child’s NICU stay.
- Don’t beat yourself up. This is not the time to be wasting precious energy blaming yourself. You have to continue to sleep and eat, as well as the multitude of different things now required of you as a new parent, specifically a new NICU parent.
- Just because you cannot hold your baby, doesn’t mean you cannot bond with them. Talk to them. Even if it’s thru the sealed doors of their incubator. Tell them what you’re thinking, what you’re wishing, hoping, praying. Offer them words of encouragement, tell them how much their fight means to you, and how proud you are of them. Tell them what they have to do to come home with you. Tell them what home will be like.
- Pumping sucks, literally, but you are going to be doing a lot of it, so make room in your freezer. Also, invest in a little igloo cooler for transporting frozen milk. Especially if you live far away from the hospital.
- If friends and family members offer to help, let them. You won’t have much time or energy for things like cleaning, cooking, laundry, and errands. Graciously accept any help you are offered.
- Always, be polite, and respectful to the entire hospital staff, even the volunteers. Try to always be calm, collected, and drama free while on the unit. Your baby will get the best possible care from the best possible nurses that way.
- Know when to back off. There will be ‘incidents’ and ‘episodes’ and ‘spells’ and your babies incubator will light up and alarm. In that terrifying moment, you will need to do something unimaginable, something that goes against your natural urge to protect your child. You will need to back up, back off, and let the staff do their job.
- Trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right to you, if your baby is acting differently, if they are just not being their usual self, express that concern. Leave a note for the doctor if you have to. A parent’s instinct is a very powerful, very real thing. Use it. You are your babies best advocate.
- Stay positive. Try to focus on the things your baby is doing, not the things they are not doing. Celebrate all their victories, even the little ones. Don’t compare yourself and your baby to others.
- Stay away from the public as much as humanly possible (they have germs). Keep tissues and hand sanitizer in your pockets at all times. Practice good hand washing. And if you have been out at work all day, or out running errands, do a quick outfit change before you head to the NICU. Also, disinfect your phone with alcohol wipes or hand sanitizer before you take it up to NICU.
- Remember that you are stronger than you think. You can do this, and so can your baby.
The tallest oak in the forest, was once a tiny acorn that held it’s ground. ~Author Unknown