When Torran came home from the hospital, I didn’t think I’d ever let go of him, much less someone else be his babysitter. In the NICU, my emotions had a terrific bashing. Yet, the joy of coming home with my son was sometimes overshadowed by the ongoing stress of early preemie/special needs parenting. There were days when I felt like I couldn’t give any more of myself. That’s when my husband and I agreed, we needed a babysitter.
Bruce and I love going to the movies, and we used the NICU as glorified babysitting on three occasions (two of those occasions were to celebrate avoiding surgery). At home, there aren’t any medical professionals to watch your little one sleep and make sure he’s breathing. However, taking a break from my hyper-aware and medicalized parenting was as essential at home as it was in the NICU. Bruce and I needed it for ourselves and for the continued health of our relationship.
If you step away from your demanding environment, you’ll still have your life weighing on your mind. It never leaves you. A change in your daily routine or environment may help you cope. Certainly, you can reconnect with your partner or your inner self in a way that you can’t when you’re at home. For example, its hard to discuss your little ones’ unknown future when she is crying for food. I couldn’t feel romantic about my husband as I stared at the swelling over my son’s brain surgery site, waiting for it to fail.
Train Up Both Yourself and the Babysitter
Start by preparing your state of mind. Have a trusted family member of friend look after your wee one when you’re home. Get that hour of sleep you desperately need. Read a book. Take a long hot bath with lots of bubbles. Step away and cry without guilt. Time the at-home babysitting for when your child is most stable or needs the least amount of attention. This isn’t a play date or visit for you and your friend. This is step one towards preparing for a babysitter for your preemie; you don’t do any of the child care!
Next, be sure you’re emotionally ready to leave your child in someone else’s care. Leave your baby with your partner or the same person who watched your preemie while you were home. If you are feeling insecure about leaving your child with a trusted family member or friend, you’ll have a harder time trusting a hired babysitter. Practice with short, local trips for errands or visiting friends on your own, outside your house. If you don’t feel like being social, go into the garden and pull out some weeds (great for getting out frustration). Go for a walk. It’s all about stepping out of the house and leaving the baby behind.
Once you’re ready to hire a babysitter, interview and get references. Be sure they have infant and child CPR. I always recommend a knowledge of first aid. Start the process of trust by repeating the first step of training yourself: have the babysitter look after your preemie when you are home. Do whatever you need to do while the babysitter is in your house. Don’t hover over him or her – they’re as nervous as you! Allow the babysitter to learn your child’s needs in a secure environment, with you around only as a back up. You’ll become comfortable enough to leave your babysitter with your child. Again, start with short trips out of the house. Try to keep your mind focused on your activity, instead of worrying about your whether or not your preemie and babysitter are OK.
Information to Leave With the Babysitter
- written instructions about your child’s routines or your expectations
- phone numbers where you can be reached: cell phone(s), the place where you are
- emergency information for your child (pre-printed history, diagnoses, medicines)
- the location of first aid kits in the house
- any local supports (neighbours, family) in case of emergency
- your full name and home address
- a photocopy of any I.D. or medical insurance needed for registration
I’ve used family members and teenagers as babysitters since Torran was a baby. We always had our babysitter arrive fifteen minutes early to review Torran’s routine and our expectations. His current babysitter (who gave me permission to use her photo) has looked after him since she was 13 years old. I scale the type of babysitting to the person who looks after Torran and their abilities. Four hours is my limit for teenagers, even now that he’s older. It took me a few years before I felt comfortable enough to have Bruce’s parents look after Torran for a few days. Even now, I wouldn’t have anyone else other than immediate family take him for overnight. As your child gets older, she or he may appreciate the change of routine as well. Babysitters can be a lot of fun!