The NICU Guide and Post Partum Sanity!

My husband and I didn't plan on having a baby in the NICU or a preemie for that matter.  When I got pregnant in April 2012, I was in great shape.  I was running, biking, walking, doing yoga, lifting weights and walking.  I enjoyed being active and felt like this was going to play an big part in an easy and uneventful pregnancy.

Up until about week 20, this was the case.  I was never sick.  I was enjoying work and traveling to see customers.  It was a happy time in my life.

I was a bit uncomfortable in my own skin as my body shape changed, but I was supposed to have this happen.

However, when my pregnancy went wrong, it went off the rails.  Starting my 20th week, at a routine appointment, the doctor discovered that my cervix was shortening and advised me to slow down.  And I did.  I was walking slowly - only for circulation and staying off of my feet.

The next week, my body started to leak fluid, and it was down hill from there.  I was admitted to the hospital for a cerclage and placed on strict bed rest for the remainder of my pregnancy.  I managed to make it to 25 weeks which was my goal at that point!  And the next 6 1/2 months were a roller coaster that we could have never imagined.

If your baby is in the NICU, first let me tell you that there is really to right or wrong way to do it!  There is no guide to tell you what to do and what to expect.  And get used to this phrase, for it will dictate your life for a long time..."Every baby is different."  I heard it so much that I would laugh at the nurses when they would say it in response to questions I had.

I'll be there first to tell you this to remember first a foremost, GET SOME REST!  The NICU for some is a quick in and out stop on the way to your home.  But for an itty bitty like ours, it was a marathon.  Not a sprint, and this ordeal needs to be treated as one.

I made lots of mistakes along the way, but a mom can make it!  I did, and I know lots of others that have too.
  1. Try to have a normal routine of meals and sleep as much as time will allow.
  2. Pack snacks in your bag such as fruit, water and granola for unexpected and non routine days that through everything out of sync.
  3. Write down your questions, even if you wake up in the night and have them so that you can be well informed.
  4. Remember that there are no dumb questions.
  5. When you feel yourself getting overly emotional and angry, let the nurses know that you aren't taking out your anger on them that you are having a difficult day.
  6. Always say thank you to the doctors and nurses and let them know about the good job you see them doing on a daily basis!  They have a thankless job that is very hard!
  7. Talk to your baby, hold his/her finger, change diapers if possible - bond with your baby in any way that the hospital will allow and ask - How can I help with my baby's care?  The staff will let you know.
  8. Maintain friendships and don't shut people out!  You will need them!
  9. When people say harsh, seemingly dumb and cruel things - remember that most people can't relate and they don't mean to say things that make you want to pull our your hair and theirs while you are at it!
  10. Ask and allow people to help you!  You will need help from others more at this time in your life now than ever.
  11. Know that it is okay to wear yoga pants, tee shirts and tennis shoes every day of the week!  It isn't a beauty pageant.
  12. Take at least one day a week to go on a date with your significant other.  Living at the hospital isn't good for anyone!
  13. Find things that are good to read or listen to!  Books on tape and podcasts are a great way to pass the time!  
  14. On days that you can and it makes sense, put on make up or dress up just because you can.  You will feel better and different!
  15. If you are feeling overwhelmed, talk to a priest, minister or counselor to unload and get some clarity.  The emotional stress is on some days more than you can take for both you and your family!