6 Secrets For Surviving the NICU
Maybe you just gave birth to seven babies, and they need a few extra weeks in the hospital. Or maybe you have just one, sweet, beautiful baby, who was immediately whisked from your arms because they have intense medical needs.
Either way, there's something you're going to need: a Neonatal ICU Survival Guide.
Trust me, these are things I wish someone had told me when we embarked on our NICU journey, so I speak from experience. Read, and absorb my wisdom as a NICU mommy who has been there.
Strangers come in and out of your baby's room a gazillion times a day.
People are dropping off paperwork. Or medicine. Or supplies. Or are there to change the eraser board with the day's doctors' names. Or to take out the trash. Or to change the linens. Basically, don't expect your baby or yourself to ever actually sleep, because you pretty much have a revolving door 24/7.
Don't feel guilty taking a break, or, heaven forbid, a nap.
Being in the NICU, regardless of the medical shape your baby is in, is entirely too stressful for you to handle in one gulp. Go outside, walk around, grab some dinner. Heck, stretch out on whatever is available in their room, be it a crummy chair or a lumpy couch, and get as much snooze time as you can! The nurses are there to take care of your little one, and if anything happens in the brief amount of time you are taking a moment for yourself, they will wake you up, page you, or call you. If you don't step away now and then, I promise, those four walls will start to close in on you, and they're not big rooms to begin with!
Gift cards are the perfect answer to “What can we do?”
When people ask how they can help (and, believe me, people want to help so badly!), the best thing to ask for is a gift card to the hospital cafeteria. While the prices are usually lower than out in the real world, if your baby is admitted for any length of time, purchasing three meals a day adds up quickly. And, I mean, quickly. Those gift cards were, and still are, the most valuable thing we have come across during our stay.
If you're confused or unsure about a procedure, surgery, or medication, ASK.
You have to be your child's advocate, and while it may seem smart to sit back and let the professionals do their job, YOU are the professional in regards to your child. To perform that job, you need to understand exactly what the doctors are thinking, why they are thinking it, and what their long-term plan for your child is. There is never a dumb question when it comes to the health of your child, so ask, ask, ask!
You are not stuck with the doctor you are assigned.
I am generally a nice person and incredibly respectful to authority figures, but sometimes, well … doctors end up getting a “god” complex and dismiss your concerns. Remember, you pay for your insurance, which in turn pays the doctors. If you are unhappy with the care you're receiving, or you don't like the way a certain doctor or nurse is interacting with your child, it is absolutely within your rights to ask they be taken off your child's case. As a matter of fact, we had to do that. I was told by a cardiologist some very devastating news in the coldest manner possible, and he seemed completely annoyed by my tears. My husband asked our case manager that he never be associated with our son again.
Take it easy. Seriously.
If you have a baby in the NICU, that means you recently gave birth. You're still healing, and your hormones are all over the place. Don't overdo it trying to be supermom at your baby's side. Let the nurses know when you would like them to take over the temperature taking, the diaper changing, the feeding, and then just sit down. They can actually deliver him straight to your arms clean, fed, and swaddled, and all you have to do is enjoy the cuddles while you let your stitches heal. Pretend you're Angelina Jolie for a moment, and let the nurses do the dirty work while you wade through the emotional madness that comes with having child in the NICU.
It's not easy being here. It's exhausting, mentally, emotionally, physically, and psychologically. The easiest way (if there is such a thing in this sort of situation) is to take it one day at a time. Thinking long term only gives you a headache as well as the urge to cry (at least, it does me).
You can handle this. You can. Keep telling yourself that.
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