There isn’t anything easy about being in the NICU with your child. The days move slowly and time seems to stand still. When my twins were in the NICU, I often lost track of what day of the week it was because it just didn’t matter to me. What mattered were my two beautiful twin micro preemie daughters.
My girls were born at 26 weeks weighing 1 pound 11 ounces and 2 pounds 4 ounces. They spent a total of four months in the NICU. Delivering them early was something for which I certainly wasn’t prepared. I delivered the last week in October, so we spent Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years in the NICU. That year the holiday season was very difficult and different to say the least.
The holidays are supposed to be full of love, laughter, togetherness, memories, and family. However, when part of your family is in the NICU, it certainly can cause heartache.
Life in the NICU is hard. You are going through something very difficult to handle and something most other people will never begin to understand. Adding an additional layer of stress on how to manage the holidays can be extremely overwhelming. It feels like stress on top of stress. You don’t want to disappoint family or friends by missing a family function, but then you also don’t want to leave your baby. It may feel like you’re being pulled in two different directions. Here is a good rule of thumb to go by. You honestly need to do what feels right. If you feel up to going to a holiday event, then you should. If you don’t want to, then don’t and stay by your baby’s side. Don’t let someone influence you in either direction. This is your journey.
It is true that your family and friends will want to see you, it is the holidays after all. Go with your gut. Don’t be afraid to say no if you don’t want to leave the hospital. On the other hand, if you think stepping away and attending a holiday party outside of the NICU will be beneficial for your mental health, do it. If your family really wants to do something and you’re not prepared to leave the hospital then have them come visit you. They can bring you thanksgiving dinner leftovers or you can exchange presents and drink some cocoa in a family waiting area. This holiday season can still happen, it just may have to be a little different.
This moment in your life is about you and your precious baby. This holiday season really think about what’s best for you and your baby.
There is no plan book or rule book on the right thing to do when your child is in the NICU. You just need to do what feels right to you. Take the NICU one day at a time. Try not to make any long term plans; plan things a day at a time. Focus on your baby and everything else will work out.
I also just wanted to add a side note here. I wanted to take the opportunity to thank all of the many people who continue to work on holidays in a hospital. You are making a sacrifice too and parents like me will never forget that you were there taking wonderful care of my girls and missing a holiday celebration with your family.