Having a baby is an exciting prospect, filled with ups and downs until that joyful day that you get to meet your bundle of joy. For NICU moms, the premise is the same but also involves the emotional roller coaster that goes along with having a premature baby. I’ve been down that road twice which is why today I want to share my tips on motherhood for NICU moms. And if you’re in need of more resources, be sure to check out my motherhood resources and inspiration page.
Why can’t I hold my preemie right away?
Many moms dream of the moment that they’re able to hold their baby for the first time. This is usually right after birth or soon after depending on what the delivery room team decides to do.
But for a mother of a premature baby, all you can do is watch – and sometimes in fear – as your tiny (tiny) bundle is whisked away. This is what happened with my first born, who was born at 24 weeks gestation.
He was given a 50/50 chance of surviving the first night and then a lifetime of possible complications. Yes, you read that right: a 50/50 chance. I don’t think I slept at all that first night we were in the hospital. If I did? It was because I cried myself to sleep. I was terrified.
I was only 16.
In some cases, you may be able to hold your baby for a few minutes before they take them off to the NICU or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. This was the case with my Sweet B who was born at 31 weeks gestation. I was able to hold her briefly, look at her, and hear her.
But, soon enough, she was also taken away.
Being a NICU mom is a roller coaster of an experience and it’s not something that I wish to repeat again.
Being a NICU mom is traumatizing
I’ll be perfectly honest with you here:
- I was already diagnosed with Clinical Depression
- This is when my postpartum depression started to kick in from my first
- This is also where my postpartum anxiety started to kick in from my first
- I was NOT fully recovered from those two experiences… and then I went through it AGAIN with my middle child.
Having two babies that went through the NICU, however, also made me incredibly appreciative when Squeaker was born. Right away I asked if she could stay with me, and fortunately the hospital staff was agreeable to doing so.
It’s something that I’ve been meaning to talk about on my blog and will hopefully have those stories up soon. True enough yes, they were both premature but the experiences couldn’t have been more different.
3 Important Tips for NICU Moms: Surviving the First Few Days
The first few days after your baby is born will be some of the more difficult in this journey.
While other moms are going home with their babies, your baby will still be in the hospital for an unknown amount of time. It could be a few days, it could be a few weeks, or it could be a few months.
Of course, you will be able to have your homecoming when your baby is ready but in the meantime here are some tips:
- If you plan to breastfeed, make sure that you have your breastpump and necessary supplies (storage bottles/bags), ice packs, and an insulated lunch bag to transport expressed milk. Hospital grade breastpumps are usually covered by insurance, so be sure to look into that as well.
- Try to rest and relax. You have just had a baby and your body will still need to recover.
- Write down all of the necessary phone numbers for the NICU, keep them in several places if need be.
Other things that you can do are get your baby’s nursery ready, if you haven’t had the chance to do that already. And while it may be tempting to do so, don’t spend a fortune on preemie clothes. Buy a few basics, but soon enough your preemie will be big enough to fit into newborn sizes.
You can also start a journal or scrapbook to share with your child when they’re older.
I won’t lie and say this journey into NICU parenting is going to be easy. You will have good days and you’ll have days where you’ll cry yourself to sleep or be up all night with worry. But the day your baby gets to go home, it will all be worth it- I promise.
How to Deal with the Anxiety as a NICU Mom
This road in your NICU journey is just beginning. It’s going to be difficult but you know what? Your body just grew that tiny human.
Don’t beat yourself up for this!
There is likely going to be a lot of mom-guilt and I get it! I questioned everything. I blamed myself for a lot of things. Honestly? I still blame myself for a lot of things.
There is also going to be a lot of uncertainty. Both at the beginning and day by day. Chances are likely that yes- this is going to continue when your child is out of the NICU.
I didn’t sleep much the first week my son came home. It was not pretty but somehow? We both survived.
You and your child are going to be okay. Maybe not right away, but you will be okay. Just take it one day and one step at a time.