Jen of Conversion Diary just had a baby, and he is hanging out in the NICU for awhile. My fourth baby stayed there for five weeks, so I have experience! Here are some random tips, Jen:
1- Remember that you are postpartum! It takes me a month to feel slightly normal...I know it is hard, but get some sleep and recover from your ordeal! Jen has a big family- call in favors and have someone watch the kids for two hours a day and then sleep.....also, expect to feel the typical weepiness- anything more, consult your doctor. Having a baby in the NICU makes things worse- anxiety is something to watch for as well as depression.
2- Get the phone number of the NICU and call twice a day to meet the nurse that is in charge of your baby for the next twelve hours. Find out when the nurses do 'rounds' and try to not call during this time. Normally, rounds are 6 to 7 or 7 to 8 (both am and pm).
3- For babies that will be hanging out in the NICU for a long time, buy some cute onesies and leave them there. Normally nurses loves to dress the babies. If your baby is in the covered incubator and/or respirator, let the nurses dress him/her in hospital grade stuff. Our baby also had a doll in her bed- make sure it is washable and write your baby's name on it in Sharpie. Normally, they will give you the onesies and dolls to wash, but I didn't want to lose the doll.
4- Write down your baby's progress whether you are visiting or calling. This will reassure you when you wake up panicked in the middle of the night. For early babies, an important milestone is the baby's weight. Ask for the weight twice a day and write it down. You will not remember the last weight, so write it down! For other babies, you might be focused on bowel movements, oxygen levels and/or feeding. Write it down! Write down questions you have- you will forget when that doctor is in front of you (I know I did)
isn't she sweet?!
5- Make sure your baby is registered as a Catholic (if applicable, readers). If you are afraid for your baby's health, have the baby baptized and anointed. You can have the baptism party when baby comes home. Our baby was small (32 weeks, 4 pounds), but healthy. I was the sick one, so we felt confident in waiting for sacraments. We still had her identified as Catholic and had some holy cards taped to her bed. I liked that the nurses 'knew' her in that way.
6- Be kind to the nurses (cookies, brownies, flowers) but demand optimal care for your baby. Ask that the nurses write things down for you. If your baby has a bad day- maybe she lost weight or had an oxygen episode- have the doctor explain everything to you or your husband and write things down. If you are sick and your husband is taking care of 20 children during his paternity 'vacation,' maybe an aunt can be given permission to speak to nurses.
7- Don't feel guilty like I did if your baby is doing well. Our baby was born in my husband's hospital. She was healthy- just small. She was fat compared to the other babies. So I didn't communicate as much as I should have. I didn't even know that there was a breast pump in the room where I could take the baby (who was on a feeding tube)...I was trying hard to be 'good' because it is my husband's hospital AND I have yelled at doctors before- supposedly I yelled at a doctor before my first daughter got her appendix out at four years of age. I don't remember this- but anxiety can get the better of us. It's a balance.
8- Take advantage of any services the chaplains and social workers have to offer. Whenever a friend asks 'what can I do,' tell them to bring milk and paper plates or have their kids play in the back yard with your kids with their mom supervising and you sleeping...Never say no to a meal. Just because the baby is not with the family yet does not mean that you don't need help. It is a good idea to stockpile meals in the freezer, however. It will get crazy when baby comes home.
9- Don't ignore your husband and your other children, but make them understand that the littlest is the big priority right now! And just because you don't have to wake up every hour to take care of the baby does not mean that you can run around like a crazy person! You are postpartum and have worries about the newest member of the family. Do your best to pump....not an easy task....and recover from pregnancy. Involve the other children in making preparations for the baby's homecoming.
10- Consider having your husband split his time off from work- one week postpartum to help momma and one week when baby comes home so he can help with the adjustment.
finally! 5 weeks later (not quite her due date)-home at 6.5 lbs
11- Don't forget to offer up your anxieties and frustrations for those who cannot have babies or who didn't get to take baby home....
St. Gerard, who, like the Savior, loved children so tenderly and by your prayers freed many from disease and even death, listen to us who are pleading for our sick child. We thank God for the great gift of our son (daughter) and ask him to restore our child to health if such be his holy will. This favor, we beg of you through your love for all children and mothers. Amen.
Readers- If you have experience with a child in the NICU- please add your wisdom in the comment box below! I'm sure I am missing a lot