The complete resource for NICU families from admission to discharge and beyond

The NICU is a scary place. Some are too brightly lit and incredibly noisy, with alarms and voices bouncing around the hard walls. Others are so dark it’s hard to see, and you’re afraid to speak above a whisper. Either way, the environment is abnormal and only heightens your discomfort and uncertainty. You don’t feel well already – after all, you did just have a baby!

You meet so many people that all look the same. They may introduce themselves, but they speak fast and have long titles, and all seem to be in a hurry to do something other than talk to you – unless there’s bad news. That’s the only time the doctors seem to want to sit down with you and answer your questions. It makes you afraid everytime someone starts up a conversation. The people caring for your baby don’t know your name, or your baby’s name. They call you “mom,” even though you’re not their mom. They refer to your baby as “he” or “she” and often get it wrong! How can you trust someone with your baby’s life when s/he doesn’t even know if your baby is a boy or a girl???

These are the realities of the NICU, and studies have shown that parents with babies in the NICU experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – sometimes for years to come. You dread the ring of the telephone at night, the sudden sound of an alarm or bell. You have flashbacks and nightmares. The worry that your baby suddenly will get sicker and possibly die never leaves you, and you’re afraid to talk about it because that might make it happen. You feel helpless and without control.

Your baby’s father feels it, too. He’s supposed to care for and protect his family. He’s seen the woman he loves birth his child, experiencing incredible pain and risking her own life to bring another one into the world. Now that baby is sick and no one can tell you if s/he will live or die. He feels helpless and that, somehow, he’s not doing what a father should do. He pulls away at the exact time that his “Baby Mama” needs him closer. He gets angry to hide his fear. She starts to cry and desperately tries to bring him closer, but he just pulls away more --- and the cycle continues. The divorce rate in our society now exceeds 50%. In NICU parents, it has been estimated to be above 97%.

You CAN get through this – together – and come out stronger on the other end. Here are some suggestions:

  • Remember you were a couple before you were parents. You have the best “babysitter” possible! Use us. Get out of the hospital. Go for a walk, together. Go to the movies or out to eat. Or just relax at home – together.
  • Enlist friends and family to help with other children and household tasks. Don’t worry if the dishes aren’t done or the house isn’t clean.
  • Rest. Eat well. You just had a baby! Your hormones are unbalanced. Don’t try to “lose the baby weight.”
  • Talk to your partner. Share your feelings – express your fears. Chances are, he’s feeling them too.
  • When you’re in the NICU, share your baby’s cares with your partner. Take turns holding and feeding your baby; make diapering and bathing a shared experience.
  • Talk to your obstetrician if you feel hopeless or have thoughts of harming yourself or others. Post-partum depression is REAL and can/should be treated.
  • Talk to the social worker in the NICU. If your hospital does not have a family support group, s/he can refer you to places that do.




0 #1 Gregory 2014-07-23 20:49
Very insightful article!

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