“She’s yours. What do you think?”
Those words hit me like a ton of bricks. We had been home from our 12 week NICU stay for about 6 months. Our 27 weeker was now 9 months old. It was the weekend and I had called the on-call number for our pediatrician to ask if I should take our baby to the MedCheck for a cough. As he spoke those words I realized that I still struggled at times to have the confidence to make medical decisions for my daughter.
Her terrifying birth at 1lb 15oz followed by the 84 day NICU stay had left me with little confidence in myself and little ability to make medical decisions. Yes, I was part of the “team”, but in the end I had no medical knowledge to make the decisions needed to care for my first child. The situation had stripped me of so many things, including some of my confidence as a parent.
It was that day that things changed.
Those words from our pediatrician moved me from asking permission to do anything with our child to having the full confidence to make the decisions she needed me to make as her mom.
Finding confidence as a NICU parent can be difficult. You are thrust into a world of medical professionals, often with little notice. You find yourself submitting to those professionals for weeks and often months. While they often care deeply for you and your child, it is an unnatural situation you can never prepare for.
Looking back, we did things that helped us to be confident in the moment and created a positive NICU stay for our family.
During our NICU stay we were intentional about being parents – not visitors.
We found a routine and learned the names of our nurses and doctors. We called often when we weren’t able to be there and wrote down all updates in a planner. I referenced the notes in the planner often when talking with our nurses and doctors. It gave me confidence in what I was talking about and helped me to feel as a part of her care as I could.
Our daughter had a few primary nurses. Their consistency in our daughter’s care was vital in my confidence to communicate with them. We got to know them and they got to know us. It was much easier to talk with them and even cry in front of them because we knew them and they knew us. With those nurses I didn’t feel that I had to have it all together all the time.
As we transitioned home we continued to be intentional.
While our decision to intentionally bond with our daughter once we were home wasn’t always what our friends and family wanted, it was what we knew was best. For the first several months my husband and I were the only ones who held, fed, or cared for our daughter. After months of different caregivers we needed this time to establish ourselves as her parents, but also to give us the confidence to care for her and her needs.
One of the best decisions we made was a “mommy and me” swim class. Weekly we went to the class and did something that felt normal. Through this time I also bonded more with my daughter than ever before. The class gave me confidence to care for her in a way I never had before, because she was completely reliant on me while we were in the water. That reliance was something I hadn’t experienced in her first weeks as the nurses and doctors cared for her.
Our NICU journey wasn’t easy, but we were intentional as we went through it and nearly two years later I’m so thankful we were. We may not have always had confidence in what we were doing at the time, but we did things in those moments that helped to build our confidence.
Parenting is a constantly changing journey and the NICU puts many unexpected curves in it, but ultimately find the things that work for you and your family – those are the things that will help you to move through the journey with confidence.