NICU Mom Story | What I Wish I Knew
November 18, 2016
When my water broke just prior to my 35th week of pregnancy, I had no idea what was in store. I mainly worried about the health of my unborn child, and was almost debilitated by the feeling that she (and I) needed more time before she was born. My whole birthing experience changed because she was so early, and I had to deal with certain emotions that I hadn’t anticipated. The reality is, you never think that you’re going to have a baby in the NICU, but it happens. Here are a few things I wish I knew heading into my NICU experience.
1. You’re probably going to feel guilty. Don’t.
Whether it’s because you have to leave the hospital, or because your baby is in there in the first place, there’s inevitably something you are going to feel guilty about. Try your best to not succumb to those feelings. As my husband says, “You can’t play the what-if game.” You can’t control your child’s situation, and it’s not healthy to blame yourself for anything surrounding said situation. The best thing you can do is be there for your child, whether it’s nursing/feeding, kangaroo care, or whatever else is needed at the time.
2. You’ll be pumping. A lot.
One of the first things I remember happening after my daughter was admitted to the NICU was being given a pumping kit and then being sent to the NICU’s “pumping room.” Just because your baby is in the NICU doesn’t mean you can’t breastfeed. There are great lactation consultants that are always available to help, and you will always have access to the aforementioned pumping room. You are going to probably feel like a pumping machine at first, but (if you’re like me) you’ll be glad you stuck with it! However, if nursing isn’t your thing, you won’t be pressured to breastfeed if you don’t want to. Remember that it’s always up to you.
3. You’re going to feel powerless.
I’m not going to mince words here… coming home from the hospital without your baby sucks. A lot. It’s hard to describe if you haven’t been through it, but there’s an absence there that is really painful. The physical and emotional toll that traveling to and from the NICU can take is considerable. I remember having to deal with a pretty intense infection while still pumping every two hours and driving up to visit my baby. But, I promise, it will get better! Just take things a day at a time, even an hour at a time. Your time at the NICU will seem like forever, and then feel like it flew by.
4. You may experience heightened postpartum depression.
I was very lucky to have a wonderful doctor who spoke to me about this. The fact is that NICU parents are more likely to experience postpartum depression than those who get to take their children home right away. Be aware of how you’re feeling, and reach out immediately if you feel intense depression or other intense emotions that seem out of place.
5. Don’t get intimidated by the hospital bills.
Hospital bills are the last things you should be worrying about while your baby is in the hospital. However, you will have to deal with them eventually. Just know that most hospitals will work with you to set up payment plans, and may also be able to provide additional financial assistance even after insurance has covered some of the costs. So don’t be afraid to ask.
6. You are stronger than you know.
When I look back on that time in my life now, I am still in awe that we all got through it. The feeling that you get when you become a parent can be almost primal; you’ll do whatever it takes to protect your child. Even if the days seem long and hard, they won’t always be. You will look back and realize how strong you had to be, and hopefully be at least a little bit proud of that. Remember … just take things a day at a time.
For anyone who wants to read more from fellow NICU families, please check out this thread. And please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences below.
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