Being a NICU mom is not something anyone ever dreams of. I’m sharing 5 things no one tells you about being a NICU mom from my NICU experience.
Being a NICU mom isn’t easy. Never in a million years did I think I would be a NICU mom. I knew Tristan would be born weeks early and would have to stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit but I never expected it to be for a long time. As of today, the NICU has been our second home for 103 days. Some good days, some bad. There’s nothing at all that I can say that will make the shock of NICU life easier but I can share with you a few things that no one tells you about being a NICU mom.
5 Things No One Tells You About Being a NICU Mom
1. It’s emotionally draining.
NICU life is draining. Plain and simple. It’s a rollercoaster and no two days/weeks are the same. There is absolutely nothing that will prepare you for what’s in store. The best thing to do is to always make sure you have a support system especially during the first few postpartum weeks. Those are when you will be the most emotionally unstable. Think about it, you’ve just had a premature baby and your hormones are all over the place. You’re spending multiple hours a day for an unforeseen amount of time with your baby that you are finding hard to bond with. During your daily visits, you’ll have to catch up on so many things, digest new medical terms from the doctors and nurses, spend time with your baby whether it’s through kangaroo care or just simply being there, and figuring out how to use your breast pump all while still trying to keep it together.
Your husband or significant other will have no idea the things that you are experiencing. And yes, he’s going through it too but what his feelings will be different than yours. One thing that will help you balance your emotions is to talk about what you and your partner are both feeling. Don’t be afraid to express your feelings to each other because in the end you’re both in it together and your baby needs you both. Cry it out together if you need to. A lot of people try to hide their feelings but it’s okay to cry. Another thing you can do is to find another NICU mom to confide in that can give you advice on how they managed their day to day routine in the NICU. Support groups like this one is a great resource. You’ll have unexpected ups and downs every single day and having a support system is key. Find time to leave the hospital too even if it’s only for a little fresh air.
2. Only another NICU mom will understand what you’re going through.
I never understood how completely annoying people were until I became a NICU mom. I can’t tell you how many people told me that it’s a good thing that Tristan was in the NICU because I would be able to get some rest before he came home. Umm…no. There’s no world in which your child being in an intensive care unit is a good thing. Never, ever, ever is that a good thing. It’s called intensive care for a reason. No one will truly understand your experience as a NICU parent unless they’ve been one themselves. No one can understand the pain and suffering you go through when you see your preemie baby going through pain and suffering. You’ll most likely have a social worker but they won’t truly understand either unless they’ve been there. It’s an unbelievable experience but an experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I think most NICU parents would agree that the life we live is rough but it makes us stronger.
3. You’ll turn into a complete germaphobe.
I surgically scrub my hands 5,927 times a day or at least it seems like it. I use hand sanitizer and sanitize literally everything. Getting sick and passing around germs is just not an option for us. Anyone who’s been in a NICU knows how important it is to wash your hands before you come into contact with a baby. For a preemie, getting sick can be life threatening. I’ll admit that I’ve gained some unrealistic habits while being a NICU mom. When you’re in the hospital, you waste a lot of supplies. Nothing is used more than once and if something hits the floor it goes in the trash. Because of course germs are on the floor. I’ve found myself doing the same thing at home from time to time and let’s be honest, it’s completely unrealistic. Our floor at home is not nearly as dirty as the hospital floor.
4. Explaining what’s going on to your other kids is tough.
I can’t tell you how hard it was to get Tatiana to get adjusted to NICU life. It’s definitely hard for kids to adjust especially the younger ones. It took countless sessions with the Child Life Specialist at our hospital to get Tatiana somewhat used to everything that was going on with her brother. She still struggles with her behavior on a daily basis. She isn’t used to not getting all of the attention. I always try to remind myself that being the sibling of a baby in the NICU isn’t something that she asked for. She wanted a sibling but she wanted to be able to take them home as soon as they were born. So this life is an extreme adjustment for her too. If you have other children, the best thing to do is to find out if your hospital has a Child Life Specialist or someone who can help to explain what is going on with their baby brother or sister.
5. You’ll be forever grateful to the nurses.
The nurses in our NICU have become a part of our family. These women are people who I had to learn to trust with my son because I had no other choice. If you know me personally, you know that I trust very few people with my children. I can literally count them on one hand. We have certain rules and expectations for our kids that some people just don’t agree with. It makes it hard for me to allow my children to be with anyone who doesn’t agree with how we choose to raise them. Tristan’s nurses are women that I would trust to care for my son even when he comes home. They treat him like he’s their own. They play with him and talk to him when I’m not there. Besides my husband and I, they are his greatest advocates. They are always willing to fulfill my crazy requests and answer every single time I call. Often times they hold him when he wants to be held. I will forever be grateful to his nurses because I know that they care for my son.
Being a NICU mom isn’t easy but it’s a life that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. It has made my marriage and my family better. My time in the NICU has truly changed my outlook on life. Every day we fight for our son and watch him grow stronger. I hope the secrets I’ve shared about being a NICU mom can help someone if they ever find themselves in the same situation.