Friday, August 1, 2014

Dear New NICU Parents

Credit: Baker Baker Photo

Dear New NICU Parents,

Welcome! Congratulations on your amazing gift!!

I know you'd much rather be in your own room snuggling your baby on your chest, but alas, life has brought you here, to the NICU. Please know you are not alone on this journey.

This is your Day 1. Breathe.

You'll be oriented to all the happenings. Where and how to wash your hands. What you can or cannot eat or drink (aka, nothing, unless you're nursing, then water). Who your doctors are. Plural. What team you're on. Who your discharge nurse is. You'll learn the term assessment, begin to watch bright lines and waves on black monitors. Don't worry-they'll make sense soon-I promise. You'll learn about the bed your baby is in. You'll figure out what medicines they're on. You'll get frustrated, and that's ok, but when you go to find a pop or soda to help get some sugar in you because you haven't eaten in two days, you'll realize there is not one ounce of real sugar in this place. You'll get nervous when they say only two back at the bedside at a time because you need support of your family or friends, or both. You might not think so, but you'll get through it. You might be terrified, but you've got this. You've got more courage than you know.

By Day 5, you'll figure out the REAL time doctors round, not the assumed or expected time. And you'll figure out that you must first LISTEN to their round, THEN ask questions when they're done. You'll start to pick up on how to help with baths, stretches, hopefully dressing your little one and diapering. You might even try some kangaroo care. Took me a month to figure that one out. You might still be recovering. Give your body grace to heal.

Day 15... {though secretly I hope like none other that your stay is short and you're home soon for snuggle time} you'll probably start to pick up primary nurses who will love on your little one like their own. You will start to learn how to strategically steal the good rocking chairs. You'll learn by now how to help take temperatures, and memorize which alarm is an alarm, and which alarm is a feeding. You'll begin to panic less about what sounds you hear, and learn to zone in on just your child's. You'll figure out that all that walking through the hospital means you'll be wearing your Asics more and your flip flops less. You'll figure out that although the cafeteria has a few junk food items, that the real food {i.e. M&M's} are in the vending machine on Floor 3, Sutherland side. Or ask another NICU mama...she usually has at least half of an uneaten chocolate bar in her bag at all times for emergencies. If you're still on the Percocet, TAKE IT. Beg for it if you must.

Day 29 you'll have learned to master the 5 minute-I-don't-really-care-shower, because you'll not want to waste much time getting over to see your baby. You'll notice that pj's are just as acceptable as the same outfit you wore for the last 3 days in a row. You'll learn how to start to help making their nest bed. But by now, you will have also mellowed out a bit to know when it's ok to trust the amazing nurses and get out for a bit. I highly suggest when this time comes to choose a nap over anything else. You'll feel guilty at first leaving your little one, but will realize you need to take care of yourself as well, just like how they tell you on the plane to put your oxygen mask on first.

Day 52 you'll realize you're on autopilot. Just warning you, it's ok to coast for a while. This can be a long haul. But you can do this. Don't give in to weary. You'll be oddly thankful for those rushes of adrenaline. You'll start calling some of your doctors by their first name. They might even cry with you now on the hard questions. It's because they love your kiddo. It's not just their job, it's their passion. If it's not-find a new doctor ;). Feel free to talk to patient advocacy. That's your choice. But you don't have to. Just sayin'. You'll also have seen many babies come and go within days of getting there. You'll watch from a distance as they do carseat checks and go over checklists and training for going home. Outwardly you'll be very happy for them. Inwardly, it's ok to grieve the fact that you're longing as well for that day.

 Day 64 {by now I hope with all my heart that you are already home} you'll be drained. But that's expected. You'll be frustrated. It's ok to be. You'll be more comfortable changing a diaper with wires sticking out. You'll probably have started purchasing and using their own sweet clothes from home. And then realize you still have to do that laundry. And the simple task of washing your babie's clothes and personal blankets will make you feel like a mommy. You'll have figured out there's no sugary drinks anywhere within a 10mi radius of the hospital. You'll have learned where the nearest coffee shop is and which restaurants deliver to the hospital after 11pm. You'll start to forget what level you parked your car on and wander the Yellow Submarine lot for a while before hitting your car alarm and realizing you hear a familiar sound up a level on Red Rocket. And, sadly, you'll probably by now see a baby pass away. Your heart will be torn out of your chest and your breath stripped of it's sustaining power. You'll panic. You'll cry, in front of everyone. It's ok. Let the emotions roll. You'll have a panic attack thinking what if....but don't let yourself go there. Focus on the good. Weep with those who weep and have joy for those who have joy.

Day 77 The days are long. They're draining. They're at times flat out migraine-inducing-nausea-causing-meltdown days. It's ok. It's hard. Not going to sugarcoat it or make it seem better because it's a journey. A LONG Journey. You might yell at a chaplain assistant by now. You might lose it with a cafeteria worker because you know it's pasta day but they're sold out. You'll realize Security barely flinches when you walk right past them and don't even bother showing them your bands.

But you'll start to realize there really are good days in the NICU, as odd as that sounds. And you'll celebrate your little one's every milestone. Tears of joy are actually accepted here. And make sure to celebrate those milestones by telling another mama on the POD because we want to celebrate with you! And every nurse you've ever loved, primary or not, will stop you in the halls to ask how your little is because they haven't gotten to have them in a while. You'll learn that word spreads fast in this tight knit family called the NICU, and nurses will ask you as you walk the halls when surgery is scheduled for, or give you smiles and hugs and say they're praying for your sweet boy or girl and thinking of them on the hard days, on the surgery days, and they'll laugh and smile with you in the halls, telling you how they stopped by to peek on your little even though they don't have them today but that it was a joy to go see them today. And you'll love them for this.

You might think this journey is too hard. Ask the Lord to guide you.
You might think you're sinking from the overwhelming tides. Ask Him to be your anchor.
You might think you're being suffocated from the weight of it all. Ask Him to breathe new life in you.
You might think you're in the middle of a storm. Ask to hide in the shelter of His wings.
You might think you cannot take one more step. Ask Him to carry you.
You might think this is too much to handle. Lay your burdens at His feet.
You might think you'll never be able to afford this. Trust Him to provide your every need.
You might think He's left you. His eye is on the sparrow; how much more does He love you.

So once again, as hard as this journey will be, we welcome you to the NICU family. Be prepared for your lives to be changed forever and to witness love and life like you've never known before.

For Our Littles,
D Pod, Bed D39, Day 98

Credit: Baker Baker Photo


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