Y’all. I’m just going to start my saying, being a NICU baby mom is no joke. It’s not a place I would ever wish on anyone, ever. That being said, I was talking with someone a couple weeks ago who said “maybe everything doesn’t happen for a reason, but everything that happens has a purpose”. Woah. That stopped me in my tracks. It might be hard to differentiate between those two statements at first, but stop and think about it for a second.
If someone tells you the cliche of “everything happens for a reason”, it can hurt sometimes, right? Like why, though? WHY did this have to happen? What’s the reason? So, instead, it might be easier to think about “what purpose did this have? What did it teach me, or what can it teach me?” And that epiphany might not happen right in the moment. It can take some time after the event, traumatic or otherwise, to figure out what purpose it had.
“How did they let me go home?”
In the chaos of having a baby in the NICU and two other kids at home, I felt pretty strong. I was doing what had to be done, and that was that. No time to think otherwise. Of course, there were ups and downs, points at which we were happy and points at which we didn’t think we’d ever come out. But for the most part, I felt like I could get through it and would. Once we got home, that all changed, and I honestly struggled with post-partum anxiety and depression once everyone was gone. I had to all of a sudden figure out how to take care of three little humans, one of which I was petrified was going to end up back in the hospital. How did they let me go home? I had done it two times prior, but not this way. I can’t do this. She’s going to have a blood sugar drop and I won’t know. It. Was. Paralyzing. It was paralyzing for a while.
And then I was doing it. It still didn’t totally pull me out of my PPD and anxiety, but I was doing it and getting it done. One day, I felt the weight lift off of me and it all changed. But, I feel like that’s a story for another post. For now, I want to share what I/we learned from the NICU. I’m not a pro by any means. We were there for 18 days. I know some people are there longer and have had different and more extreme experiences than we did. However, I think more of this needs to be talked about, so I want to share our experience.
1. Coming together instead of falling apart.
Guys, I’m being real. The stress of a sick baby and being a NICU baby mom can BREAK YOU. If it can break you, it can break some important relationships in your life as well. During this time, my husband and I really figured out more of our strengths and weaknesses. We determine who was better at dealing with what parts of what. Hubby isn’t great with medical procedures and talking about it. He almost passed out just talking about the baby getting a PICC line put in. I dealt with all of that. He’s way better at bringing me back down to Planet Earth and keeping me from bouncing off the walls and going to the extreme. I always immediately goes to worst case scenario. He’s my steady hand.
He was also master of keeping the main household moving. We were staying in separate places for 2 weeks because he had to get back to work and we also needed to help out my mom getting our oldest to school. Our parents were super helpful during this time, too.
I really found out and remembered why I loved my husband, and loved him even more after this whole experience.
2. Ask for help.
Going off of my last point, our parents were so helpful. We just moved a couple months before all of this went down, so we didn’t have too many friends in the area. Our parents live 2.5 and 5 hours away, so it’s not like a “hey, can you just pop over thing”. But, we needed the help. We wouldn’t have made it without the help. And it’s totally OK to ask for help!! It will save your sanity. It did ours. You don’t have to do this all alone.
3. Getting over the mom guilt of “where should I be” and “who needs me more”.
I struggled with this so badly. It’s obviously impossible to be in two places at once. I wanted to be with the baby, because it felt weird and hurt so bad to leave the hospital without her. But, my other babies needed me, too. Maybe even more than the baby at that point. They knew baby was in the hospital and mama was with her, but didn’t obviously understand the gravity of the situation. It was hard for them to have their whole routine disrupted too. I had to get past the guilt and really focus on spending the time I could with everybody and be in the mindset that it wouldn’t be this way forever.
4. It’s okay to feel your worst, even if someone has it “worse”.
An amazing nurse helped me realize this. I’m an empath, so I feel for everyone else. But it’s really okay to feel how you feel for your situation, even if you think it’s not as bad as what someone else has going on. I said to a nurse one time “This has been so hard, but I feel bad because I know there are people here who have it worse.” She said to me, “but this is YOUR worst, and you’re allowed to feel that”. The best advice ever.
5. Reach out!
There are so many other moms, dads, parents, grandparents in there that feel the same or similar way you do! Go to those parent meetings they provide weekly. Seriously. Do it. I didn’t do it the first week, and wish I would have. I went the second week and it was so nice just to escape for a while and hear stories from other parents. You. Are. Not. Alone. I don’t know how many times I can say this. I wish someone would have slammed this into my head.
6. It’s also okay to get out of the hospital.
The first day, I refused to leave. My husband had to almost drag me out of the NICU to go home and see the other kids, take a shower, get a good nap, etc. It felt wrong to leave her there. It felt like something was going to go wrong (or right) if I wasn’t there.
But it’s alright, and let me tell you, there’s no such thing as being the perfect NICU baby mom. They will call you, and you will need the break! It was even nice for hubby and I to be able to go to dinner together, even if all we did was eat in silence or talk about the baby and the other kids. I guess that’s #parentlife.
7. Surviving the NICU Baby Mom “Routine”
I was staying at the Ronald McDonald House near the hospital (BEST thing ever by the way.) My husband was staying at home so he could get our oldest to school in the morning. I’d wake up every day, head to the hospital, spend time there, leave there by 1:15pm to pick up my oldest, head home for a couple hours to see my mom and the older kids, then back to the hospital to meet my husband for dinner and to see the baby. After he left, I’d spend more time at the hospital, head back to RMHC, and do it all over again the next day.
Add to that, I was pumping at least every 3 hours around the clock for the baby. She was being bottle fed and had a NG tube to ensure she was getting the food she needed to get big and strong and get that blood sugar under control! The routine can be so mundane and exhausting after a while, but again, I just had to remind myself I was doing good for everyone and it wouldn’t be like this forever.
8. You don’t HAVE to talk about being a NICU baby mom all the time.
It’s alright to take a break from constantly thinking about the stress in your life. Talk about something else, tell a joke or two. It’ll keep you sane. I promise. And you’re not a bad parent if you need a break from it. People always say you’re more of a person than just a mom, and you’re also more than just a NICU baby mom.
9. Keeping everyone update is not your job right now.
People totally mean well when they’re asking how you’re doing, how baby is doing, etc. But please, don’t stress over responding to everyone right away, or at all. You have your own focus on your baby and your family right now. Honestly, the easiest way I found was to update people on Facebook. That way, I could update when I was ready and had a free second. I also wasn’t sending the same “no change” text message 25 times.
10. It’s also okay if you want to keep everyone updated right now.
Whatever your personality or preference, it’s OKAY. If you’re more of a private person and Facebook isn’t your thing, that’s 100% okay. You don’t have to update people, OR if you want to have that connection with people (because, being real again, being a NICU baby mom can be so lonely and isolating), do it! Reach out, respond to those texts and questions. It’s so nice to know sometimes that you have that support system of people who are invested in you and your family.
I hope this can help someone get through a tough time in life. Being a NICU baby mom is so tough, but I know having a support system can make all the difference. If you ever need someone to talk to, please feel free to reach out to me!
You’re more than just a NICU baby mom.
Another suggestion I have is to find an outlet of some sort. Once we got home, I started crocheting again. I wish I would have picked it back up earlier while we were in the NICU. Yes, holding the baby was all I wanted to do, but there was also a lot of time to pass alone. To check out what I’ve built from that, come on over to my Facebook Page, Instagram, and Pinterest. I’m a huge advocate for moms finding something they’re passionate about outside of being a mom.
Try out your crochet skills on this super easy bow pattern named after our NICU baby.