I gave birth to my baby prematurely, and it looks like we’ll be spending the next little while in the NICU. This is not what I anticipated my first weeks as a mother to look like. Is there anything I can do to make things feel more memorable and less medical?
A: I sympathize. We all envision perfection. We all want a full-term pregnancy, flawless birth, healthy baby and swift stay in the hospital. When that doesn’t happen, a piece of us might feel gypped, resentful and sad. I hear you; I understand that this isn’t what you expected. I want you to honor your feelings and allow yourself to go through the roller coaster of emotions. Cry and laugh. Everything you are feeling is OK. Your feelings are real.
There are a few things you can do to change the tone of your hospital stay:
- Get an outlet. Sitting in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for days, hearing all those machines beeping, waiting through doctor visits, tests, etc.—it’s exhausting and draining. I suggest journaling your emotions, writing a daily letter to your baby, reading aloud to your newborn, coloring in an adult coloring book or doing anything else that keeps your mind occupied.
- Practice kangaroo care. Should your child’s situation permit, try kangaroo care, a method of caring for premature babies in which infants are held skin-to-skin with a parent. I remember the first time I “kangarooed” with my son. Happy tears streamed from my face as I snuggled my tiny child. It is the ultimate bonding experience for preemie parents. You’ll love it.
- Think of the NICU as a blessing in disguise. You have access to incredible resources—doctors, nurses and experts. Pick their brains. Learn from them. Embrace the experience, and consider the NICU a transitional tool between giving birth and going home.
My son’s stay in the NICU was the longest week of my life. I was overjoyed and overwhelmed at the same time, rejoicing in becoming a mother while worrying about my 4-pound son. But every birth is a miracle, a magical story of welcoming a baby into the world. The NICU will soon become a mere memory, and you’ll eventually find yourself, like me, admiring your beautiful toddler and in awe of how far he’s come.
—Nadine Bubeck, author of Expecting Perfect: My Bumpy Journey to Mommy and blogger at BoyMamas.com