What First-Time Parenting Activity Made You Nervous in the NICU?

February 5, 2016

Was there a routine, first-time parenting activity in the NICU that made you extremely nervous to perform? Maybe it was changing a diaper, or giving your preemie a bath. Whatever it was, you are in good company. All of us preemie parents have been there!

In January, Hand to Hold founder and Executive Director Kelli Kelley was named to the Huggies Nursing Advisory Council, offering ongoing guidance and information to nurses on protecting newborns’ – particularly preemies’ – fragile skin.

Kelley recalls how it was over six weeks before she could hold her micro-preemie son, who was born at a mere one pound, eight ounces. Changing his diaper for the first time was a powerful, emotionally charged event that Kelley will never forget. “I was terrified I might hurt him, but his nurse lovingly and professionally coached me as we had to carefully maneuver multiple pieces of medical equipment and use extreme care with his delicate skin. I hope through my service on the council, I can help nurses understand and embrace their important role in helping parents become confident care givers and prepare them to meet the needs of their medically fragile child.”

For NICU parents, being given permission to complete routine tasks with our preemie is nerve-wracking. The babies are so tiny; we are scared and lacking confidence in our ability. I had only changed one diaper in my life before my twins were born at 31 weeks – my nephew’s, 10 years prior – and it was a shoddy job at that. Only a few days into our stay, when the nurse said I could change one of the girls (with her guidance), I thought surely she had mistaken me for someone who knew what they were doing. But what she was really doing was getting me involved in my baby’s care as early as possible. And over the next five weeks, I grew more and more confidant in my ability to care for my tiny girls. Toward the end of their stay, when they were swaddled in open cribs, I would simply pick them up and snuggle with them whenever I could.

With this in mind, we asked our communities on the Hand to Hold, Preemie Babies 101, and Life After NICU Facebook pages: “What first-time parenting activity made you extremely nervous in the NICU and why?”

The results show a few very interesting things:

  • We all have wildly different stories, yet we can all relate to the fear of performing routine tasks on our preemies.
  • Most of us were afraid we were going to break our tiny babies.
  • Holding, changing diapers, and bathing were the most stress-inducing (for us!)

Here are just a few of the over 50 responses we received (or view in Storify):