Expecting a baby can be an absolutely thrilling time. But it can also bring on a lot of worries, especially for new parents or parents who have experienced complications in previous pregnancies. One of the most common fears is: “What if something goes wrong?” Whether you’re experiencing a high-risk pregnancy or not, it’s important to remember that almost all parents have these feelings at one time or another, and it’s okay to talk about it. Some people find that learning more from someone who’s been there can be very reassuring.
We decided to talk to a mom whose babies were born premature at just 28 weeks. They spent two months in a NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) before finally going home. Eighty-five to 90 percent of babies never need a NICU, but for the other 10 to 15 percent, a NICU is a special type of advanced life-saving care unit for infants with special health care needs. You can read about this mom’s experience and advice below.
HCA Midwest Health has Level II and Level III NICUs available 24/7, so you can rest easy knowing that we’re always prepared to support your little one with whatever level of care they may require. Visit our neonatal care webpage to learn more about the specialty care we offer for newborns who need it most.
What feelings did you experience while your babies were in the NICU?
The first week, I was in shock. You don’t have a baby and expect it to go to the NICU. It’s impossible to prepare for an experience like that. After the shock wore off, extreme fear settled in. There is nothing more terrifying than the compromised health of your child and so many unknowns. After some time had passed and the babies were healthy, impatience crept in. We were so ready to bring our babies home and those last few weeks as “feeders/growers” seemed to last a lifetime.
What advice would you give to parents of a baby in the NICU?
Take it one day at a time. Celebrate the small victories, such as one-ounce weight gain, wearing clothes for the first time and so forth. Use the resources available to you: lactation consultants, social workers, etc. If your baby is expected to be there for a while, buy or make a calendar to hang in their room and cross off each day. It’s satisfying to put each day behind you and see how far you’ve come. It’s also a great place to record milestones.
While it is important to be with your baby as much as possible, you also need to take care of yourself. Remember, while your baby is in the hospital, you have the most qualified “child care” possible; take advantage of it. Catch up on some sleep, go on a date with your spouse, prepare your house for when the baby comes home.
What questions should the parents of a baby in the NICU ask their doctors?
Every baby has their own unique reasons for being in the NICU. In general, it would be helpful for parents to ask how the NICU “works.” For example, will my baby see the doctor every day? What if I’m not here when the doctor comes; how will I find out what he/she said?
What helped you the most when your babies were in the NICU?
Support from family and friends helped a lot. We didn’t have to cook a meal for over two months.
It was great to have primary nurses that got to know our babies as well as us. It was comforting to know who was taking care of them, and also great to spend each day with a nurse we knew as opposed to a stranger. Plus, it really helped that we were able to call the NICU anytime day or night to check on the babies if we couldn’t be there.
What surprised you the most about the NICU?
The friendships I made with the nurses and staff. Two of our primary nurses came to our house after we were discharged to check on us. To this day, I still talk to one of our nurses on a regular basis. I’m also surprised at how much I miss it. When I look back on our two months in the NICU, I don’t initially think of the hard times — I think of the miracles I witnessed each and every day, the friendships I made, the knowledge I gained and the ways it prepared me for parenthood.