Life changes when your child enters NICU (Natal Intensive Care Unit). Please welcome guest writer, Kira McCloskey, a brave mother of two who is sharing 5 Tips To Survive NICU.
Expecting your first baby is always so exciting. We found out we were having a boy and we would name him Kolton Rian. The middle name (pronounced like Ryan) was after my aunt’s son who lived 2 days in the NICU. It was a way of remembering and honoring him. Around 28 weeks, I started to experience intense fatigue. I went to my doctor and they noticed my blood pressure has risen quite a bit and my urine was showing traces of protein. They put me on medicine and I stayed 2 nights in the hospital for observation. I was also given a steroid to help develop his lungs in case of an early delivery.
We returned home and things were ok. I was told to stay on bed rest and as fun as that sounds it was so difficult for someone who wants to be out and about to do things. At 31 weeks and 5 days I couldn’t wake up. I mean I did wake up, but my body was so weak I had barely any strength to open my eyes. I went to the doctors office right away.
5 Tips To Survive NICU
Tip #1: Listen To Your Body
If you are feeling like this go straight to the hospital, not the doctors office. They admitted me and told me I had pre-eclampsia. I slept that night at the hospital with cords and machines all over the place to monitor me and baby.
That morning I was awaken by a female doctor who I have never seen. She explained the severity of pre-eclampsia and told me that they needed to do a C-section right away. I was puzzled. Do 31 week old babies survive? I had no idea! All I could think of was to ask my husband if our baby would live. He had talked to the staff prior and they explained to him how the NICU works and of course the worse case scenario. I remember asking God to keep him alive. I didn’t care if he would have a disability from being born so early, I just wanted him to live.
Leaving to the NICU
I went into the operating room shortly after and went through the typical process of a C section. I remember asking the strangest questions. It’s funny how we don’t think straight during stressful times. Once he was out, I heard a tiny baby cry and he was immediately taken to a baby NICU bed where they started administrating tubes and his ivy. I knew this was best for him but the thought of not being with him, if he in fact were to take his last breath, at any moment, was the daunting part. I had to prepare myself for any outcome, by accepting this situation and with my faith, I was able to stay calm before he was wheeled away.
After recovery I was taken to see him in the NICU. I don’t remember much. I was disillusioned from everything. He was tiny, yes, but he was moving around and his numbers on the screen were all good. Honestly, at the point I felt relaxed. Although he had a road ahead of him, he was stable right now.
#2: Take some time away from the NICU for yourself
After the first week he was showing major improvements. I felt at this point it might be a good idea to start integrating into a normal life. We decided to go to dinner outside of the hospital. I got my nails done one afternoon and I went home to get some sleep.
It could be just a nap or maybe coffee with a friend, but it’s so important to get outside of the NICU for a little bit. Everyone grieves differently; some in silence and some with an audience. However you feel is appropriate for you. Allow yourself some time to do it. You can also call the NICU to get check ups on baby.
Tip #3: Capture the Moment
You may be taking photos and they aren’t exactly what you had in mind but they are part of your journey. Take pictures to compare progress and know that as your baby gets stronger the pictures will be a reminder of how tiny they once were.
Other ideas could be to journal, create a small craft with their foot print or crochet a blanket. I just recommend taking something from this moment to hold on to. In most cases, you can decorate their area. I created a scrapbook and it has his beanie and (new) tubing that he had on and a preemie diaper so I could show him how tiny he was. If you prefer to post on social media, it may be best to have someone whom you trust post at the beginning or any sensitive information you are willing to share. I will warn you and say that some people say the most insensitive comments and sometimes they don’t realize it.
Tip #4: Celebrate the Milestones
It will keep your spirits up and you can start to see how much your baby is growing. One thing I personally felt got my son hitting milestones is kangaroo care. It’s skin to skin contact. He took the most flawless naps this way. You share your body temperature as well as your scent with the baby; and yes dad can do this too! Also encourage family and friends not to stroke a baby but rather cup their hands under their feet and on top of their head. Some nurses will actually tell people not to touch the babies because it over stimulates them
Tip #5: Stay Patient
Your growing baby wants to be home with you too. They need this care right now and eventually the day will come to go home. My son struggled with feedings and that was his last hu. I can’t even explain how it is to be so close to the finish line to have one thing hold discharge up. You have to remember they aren’t just small their insides are still growing.
Support That Helped Me
- Threads of Love: they provide hand made items such as preemie clothing or booties. Check out your local chapter and get in touch with a volunteer. Every chapter is different and they provide this through a ministry of love.
- Seek an online support group. Ask your nurse if their NICU has one.
- Be friendly and make friends with your neighbors in the NICU. Do not compare baby’s progress though.
- See if you can have a professional photographer come in, especially for long term stays. If you are on a budget, ask if they have NICU rates.
- Always ask. Many people want to help but don’t know how. Communicate that you really need some rest and if they could hang out in the NICU while you took a nap or that you could really use a meal from your favorite restaurant (mine was Chic Fil A with a lemonade). Don’t expect people to read your mind. It’s hard for them as it is for the parents.
Kolton ended up staying 31 days in the NICU. He was 4 pounds 6 ounces at birth and he left weighing over 5 pounds. The beeping noises of the NICU will forever play a huge part of the experience. The NICU is a precious place; they give babies special care to thrive and live. If you find yourself in the NICU know that you are not alone and this isn’t a place to blame yourself. Pregnancy has its ups and downs for everyone. We are encountered with challenges in our life and we have a choice to see our glass half full or half empty. Stay strong. Stay preemie strong!
I want to thank Kira for sharing her brave story. I too had NICU Preterm Babies and I wholeheartedly agree with every piece of advice. As Kira said, know that you aren’t alone. I hope 5 Tips to Survive NICU brings you comfort. If you are currently going through this situation, I’d love to hear what helps you in the comments.