*A note from Katie – I am so honored to have Cate share this guest blog with us! This is a How to Survive the NICU post is pre-scheduled… and I’m still pregnant. When this post goes live, I hope to have a full-term healthy baby, but you never know what hand you’ll be dealt. I’m so grateful to Cate for sharing these tips and hope you’ll read and share with your friends.*
Hi, I’m Cate! I blog over at www.thefabulesswife.com. I’m a new Mommy to an amazing 4 month old who was supposed to be my April Fool..but ended up being my Valentine. Because he was born 6 weeks early, we spent almost 2 weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
My birth experience was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through. So many times I wished I had some sort of survival guide on the NICU. Here are some of the things that helped me get through, as well as some things that I wish I would have done.
Embrace This Season
During my NICU stay, I felt cheated. I just wanted to take my baby home like all the other Moms. I wanted to get into our new family routine. I was in a state of denial my whole stay. I was always looking just to get through the day, rather than enjoy it as much as I could. If I could relive my NICU experience, I would have an attitude of acceptance. I would be more grateful for the blessings that I do have instead of looking at what I do not have. I would have tried to find my purpose in all the madness.
The NICU is a place where time either stands still, or it goes fast. One thing that helped me to keep my head was staying busy. My husband brought me puzzle books, magazines, books, and my Bible. All those things kept my mind on something other than the crisis we were going through. The hospital also provided me with an Ipad, so I could update friends and family through social media..and browse Pinterest on those really rough days.
Make It A Learning Experience
One of the benefits of having a child in the NICU is that you are surrounded by some of the best trained professionals. During my stay, I had a bone specialist, a vision/hearing specialist, a developmental specialist and a lactation specialist. Not to mention some of the most awesome nurses and doctors around. They taught me so much while I was there and never acted at all annoyed by the questions I considered stupid. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Chances are, they’ve heard it all before. Taking advantage of the knowledge that is contained in the NICU is one of the smartest things you can do. Make it a goal to learn at least one new thing every single day.
The NICU is a place where your emotions run will rampant. It’s important to do as much as you can to keep yourself in a good mental state. For me, that was reading my Bible and praying. I also watched inspirational speakers whenever possible. Another way to keep your emotions in check is to take frequent breaks. When my son was in the NICU, because we lived two hours away, I stayed with him 24/7. After awhile, all the monitors and just the emotions from other family situations took its toll on me. The hospital we were in provided a Ronald McDonald kitchen area right outside the NICU, so I would take a couple minutes while my son was asleep to recharge. That simple act of taking a breather saved my sanity more than once.
Don’t let the fact that your baby isn’t at home ruin capturing those special newborn moments. Do what you can to remember this season. I took pictures, journaled, and kept all those little mementos to create a scrapbook documenting our journey. At the time, I wanted to skip past the hospital stay and get home. I look back on that time period fondly and I know my son will want to know as much as possible about his birth story. Focusing on making memories will help your stay to go so much faster.
Stay in the moment, yet don’t forget that this time won’t last forever. Every day that I was in the NICU, my Mom would text me and say “One day closer to coming home”. That reminder was enough to give me strength to do whatever it was that I needed to do that day. Some days are going to be harder than others, but know that this too will pass.
Have A Support System
I can’t stress the importance of leaning on others. I wouldn’t have made it through without the love and prayers of my family and friends. I kept everyone updated through my social media pages. It truly helped me feel less alone. There are online support groups you can join if you don’t have a support system already. Another great option is the hospital chaplain, my chaplain was glad to talk to me and gave me great encouragement.
Today, I look at my son and I no longer see a preemie. I see a chubby, strong, happy baby. All of that wouldn’t be possible without him having had the best care possible from our NICU.
Cate Hoepner blogs at www.thefabulesswife.com. Since becoming a Work at Home Mom, she has become intrigued with finding ways to indulge her expensive taste on her not so large budget. She is a Wife and a Mommy to a 4 month old son. In her free time you can find her sipping a homemade iced coffee and listening to acoustic music. She pins her dream life at www.pinterest.com/catexoxo, and you can find her blog updates at www.facebook.com/thefabulesswife..