With my history of premature labor, scarred tissue, a classical c-section… the list could go on… we almost knew that our last child, Evie, would be another early arrival. And she was. She was born two days before New Year’s Eve last year.
She came five weeks early, after trying everything under the sun (including magnesium sulfate!) to keep her inside me. She is our third preemie. A miracle nonetheless. In fact if you saw her today, at two months old, you’d never know she was born prematurely.
The first night they let me see her in the NICU my heart almost stopped. I remember seeing her lying there in the level III NICU, with tubes, wires, stickers all over her chest and her flushed pink skin. It was like history repeating itself. My son was born five weeks early, and our first daughter was born 11 weeks early. A part of me felt responsible for each of their NICU stays. Thankfully, there weren’t many bumps in the road with Evie’s stay, but knowing that anything could change at any moment, that hardly eased my mind while she was there. After experiencing the NICU with three babies, my heart has grown a soft spot for these amazing and tiny miracles, their families and the staff.
If you find yourself riding the NICU roller coaster for the first, second or third time (or more), rest assured that you are not alone. And most of all, that it is not your fault.
A Few Things I Found Helpful
- Ask for help. Help with meals, cleaning your house, taking your other kids for the day (or more), checking your mail. In fact, some of the ladies from my church made meals for us, but looking back I wished I had asked for restaurant gift cards instead. Meals do not tend to be ideal if you plan on staying at the hospital with your baby. They weren’t for us, because none of us were home most of the time.
- Make time for you. Between pumping, sitting at your baby’s side, communicating with doctors, pediatricians, nurses and family and friends, you are all kinds of exhausted. Try to cut out five or ten minutes to nap, read a magazine, book or sit in the cafeteria downstairs. It might feel wrong to think about making time for yourself after having a baby, but in order to be there for your baby, you need to take care of you.
- When the NICU staff changes shifts (in our hospital we could not be in the room), take the opportunity to talk to other NICU families. This past time, with our daughter, I had the chance to meet the NICU mom whose son was next to Evie. It felt so good to be able to connect on so many levels, since both our children were there together, and we both happened to have toddler sons.
- Ask hospital if there are programs for siblings. I became concerned for my son during Evie’s stay. He is two, and he missed me like crazy. He was also disoriented because of the driving back and forth, the long hospital stays, the new baby and so much more. I remember crying like a baby because I missed him, and couldn’t be with him.
What did you find helpful? What do you wish you had known during your NICU stay?