4 Tips to Make the NICU Feel More Homey

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Image via Rachel Engel

Before my son was medically flown to a children’s hospital on his twelfth day of life, I had never set foot inside of a neonatal ICU.

Ever.

We’ve never had any relatives with premature babies, or friends, or knew anyone with children who had major medical concerns at birth.

So, being there for the first time because of something wrong with our child made the place seem incredibly scary, despite the doctors’ attempts to mask the fear the acronym ICU conjures up. The walls were lovely lilac and pale blue with purple couches and framed pictures of–I kid you not–sugar-coated candy. The curtains were colorful, and the entire children’s hospital was centered around a castle theme; the food court was called “Camelot’s Court.”

Still, behind the sweet, childlike facade, it was a hospital. A hospital for babies with washed and re-used linens and donated baby clothes and empty window sills and generic mobiles.

Once I realized we were going to be there for an extended period of time (I was thinking a few weeks; I had no idea it would turn into three full months), I decided to turn our hospital room into our home.

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Image via Rachel Engel

I brought all of Jackson’s newborn clothes that were optimal for hospital use (clothes with snaps all the way down, clothes that were separates, so that the wire leads on his chest and his feeding tube would be able to come out, and pants with no feet so the pulse oximeter could wrap around his toe) and I also purchased more for the occasion.

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Image via Rachel Engel

He was swaddled in his own blankets that smelled like home, and we also used his own blankets as linen because they were softer than hospital issued blankets, and, again, they were HIS.

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Image via Rachel Engel

My mother gifted us with diapers from The Honest Company, and we used those even though the hospital supplied other diapers for us. We brought his own lotion to use after baths and his own light up mobile for his crib.

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Image via Rachel Engel

We decorated his window sill with stuffed animals and painted foot prints on canvas that the Child Life Specialists came around and helped us do.

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Image via Rachel Engel

When you walked by his room, sure, it may have just said “A14–Engel” on the sign, but when you walked in, it screamed Jackson. If I was going to miss out on having my baby in the comfort of his own home, then I was going to do as much as I could to bring his home to him. That’s a small part of what got me through those long 90 days we spent in the NICU.

Some may say I made more work for myself by having to haul home dirty clothes, blankets, and linen when the hospital provided all those things. But after a bath, when he was covered in the lotion I had chosen for him while I carried him inside me, wearing an outfit chosen by his family specifically for him and swaddled in a blanket that smelled like home, it made it a tiny bit easier.

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We weren’t missing out on these moments completely. We weren’t going to let being in the hospital take away from the fact that we just had a baby, and we weren’t going to let all the things we had bought for him go to waste.

He deserved it.

We made the NICU our home, and when we did, it became a little less scary.

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4 Tips to Make the NICU Feel More Homey

Rachel is a stay-at-home-mom to her 4-year-old daughter, Sydney, and her 18-month-old son, Jackson. Her writing can be found all over the web, mostly detailing her own parenting struggles and triumphs, as well as her life as the military spouse of an active-duty airman. She also writes about her life as as a special needs parent on her blog, Tales From the Plastic Crib, and spends an unnecessary amount of time on Twitter. ... More

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