As NICU Awareness Month winds down, I realized that for the first time in almost four years I am able to reflect on the time my children spent in the NICU somewhat objectively. During a visit to their NICU earlier in the year, I jokingly said to one of their former nurses that enough time must have gone by because I don’t feel the urge to vomit immediately after exiting the elevator anymore.
For better or worse, having my three spend the first 2+ months of their lives in the NICU had a profound impact on myself as a parent and although I wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone, I can’t imagine our lives now without that period. So here’s my attempt at collecting my thoughts about my journey as a NICU parent, with the hope that it might make someone else’s a little easier.
1. The first thing that every NICU parent should know is that it’s ok to ask questions. Talk to the
nurses, doctors, other medical professionals, any sort of support people that are available to you.
The more you know about the wires, sounds, and terminology, the more comfortable you’ll feel
caring for and advocating for your child.
2. Still in the hospital? Sleep with headphones. Literally the worst thing in the world as a crazy
hormonal mother is being woken up by the sound of someone else’s baby in the next room crying
while your babies are in the NICU. Spare yourself, and everyone else on the postpartum floor, the
3. In this case the ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ advice can actually be applied. The naps I had while
doing kangaroo care with my babies were the best sleep I got the entire time they were in the
4. No accomplishment is ever too small. Progress is rarely linear but any forward step is cause to
celebrate. Your baby pooped? Amazing! They can wear clothes for the first time? Take 94,715
more pictures! You finally watched a preemie eye exam without hiding in the corner? NICU Parent
Level Achievement Unlocked!
5. There will eventually be a silver lining. I know when you’re in the thick of it that sounds impossible,
but we learned so much from our NICU’s amazing staff. To this day whenever I’m giving any baby a
bottle, I can hear one particular nurse’s voice in my head and it always makes me smile.
5ish... Ok, there are six things. Probably the most important message to current NICU parents is
that you are not alone. Although everyone’s experience is different and everyone’s child is different,
you are not alone in your love, anger, fear, heartbreak, guilt, and elation.
And hopefully that can make this roller coaster feel a little less lonely.