5 Tips to Navigate the NICU
Updated: May 17, 2022
Unfortunately, you can never be prepared for the NICU. No two stays are the same. As a fellow NICU mom, I can understand you on a different level compared to others who may have not yet gone through the NICU journey.
I do not have the answers, but these are my five tips that I believe may support you in your NICU Stay.
1. Ask and request, no matter how nervous you are.
If you do not understand what is happening, acronyms being used, ask. Google is not your friend. Talk to the doctors. Talk to other NICU families. Request another nurse or doctor to look twice or get another opinion. This can be done respectfully. Be clear
with your questions or the expectations you have. You can approach it as, "As X’s parent I would like to fully understand X." If you want to know when your child will be bathed, ask and request that you are there. This is your child, you are allowed to ask for these things. Also, understand that if they say "No" to doing something that they are not doing that to torcher you. I wanted to hold Presley and I was told no multiple times. Why? Because it was dangerous, she was not stable enough. You are advocating for your child and what you want but the Nurses and the staff are also doing the best they can to take care of your child and doing what is best for the NICU babe.
2. Let your loved ones support you.
If they offer to drop off food or bring you things, help with your other children at home, let them. If you need something from them, ask. If you need a safe space to vent, tell them what you need. Say I need a safe space to vent, I need you to listen. I need a pep talk. I need you to let me be sad. If your loved ones are not supporting you, cultivate your own community by connecting with other NICU parents on social media, asking the NICU staff to help connect you to support people. Please do not hide from others. You do not have to go through this alone.
3. Feel all of the emotions.
I tried to be positive the whole time. I did not really sit on uncomfortable emotions. I practiced gratitude daily that she was alive and that I was able to see her but man, I did not allow myself to feel angry. I did not allow myself to feel frustration with how everything was going. Your feelings are valid. Journal it out. Talk to yourself. Talk to a friend. Go for a walk. Sleep. Cry. Scream. Hit a pillow. Please do not let all of those emotions sit and fester inside your body. No matter what your emotion is, it is valid.
Take the time to rest. Your child is in the best possible care. The team there is doing everything they need to do to care for your child. You actually have no control. You need to surrender and rest. If you need someone to watch your other kids or if you need to go to a friends to rest, or if you're from out of town, utilize the Ronald Mc Donald House in Saskatoon or wherever you are.
5. Take the videos. Take the pictures. And savior moments without your phone.
I was so engulfed in taking enough photos and videos and I never really just sat with her or beside her. The few times I did, it was so that I could caress her, feed her and sing to her. Those intimate moments, though they are not what you anticipated or you might be so uncomfortable in them, smell your baby, sing to your baby, talk to them. They know you are there.
NICU mama, I know the NICU is scary. The unknowns are petrifying. The NICU journey is one of many moment to moment memories. Take it one step at a time, and know that you are not alone.