Heads up folks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), parents of premature babies want you to succeed more than you may realize. It is just hard for them to communicate this through the fog of stress and exhaustion that has consumed them for countless hours, days and even months.
So here is a little insight into the parent mind and what they want you to know about what it is like to have a preemie:
1. I am grateful that you are here. Though I may snap at you, seem out of it, or Google every condition my child has, please know that I am thankful for your knowledge and your expertise. I am just trying to understand what is happening. So take the time to explain things to me and answer my questions and you will have my trust.
2. I’m scared. Having a preemie is the scariest thing ever to happen to me. I freak out every time I get a call from the hospital or any call at all. I fear walking into the NICU to see my baby each and every day, afraid something horrible has or is going to happen to my child. I hang on every word you tell me regardless of how I respond to you. Remember to give me the positives along with the negatives because I am living for anything that gives me hope for my child.
3. I’m sad. I didn’t get the full pregnancy that most mothers do. Everything is so wrong in so many ways and I am mourning the loss of that experience. I am also worried about my child’s health right now and also what the future might hold for him or her. Will he/she walk? Talk? Ride a bike?
4. I am getting a lot of comments from “outsiders” and it is making me uncomfortable. My family and friends have been there for me in various ways but also some of their comments and suggestions have been inappropriate or they are trying to make me question my decisions or the NICU’s efforts. Anything you can do to provide me with information on what is happening with my child that I can pass onto others would be a huge help. I have confidence in you, but it is hard to maintain it I am away from the hospital. Please help me.
5. I am already wondering about my next pregnancy. You might think that having a baby in the NICU is making me think twice about having another child. In some ways yes and in many other ways, no. I am already thinking about that next baby. I need your help in educating me on how I can go onto have another child but this time full-term. Consider referring me to a high-risk doctor now so I am prepared should I end up in an unplanned pregnancy in the near future.
Deb Discenza is co-author of The Preemie Parent’s Survival Guide to the NICU and the founder and former publisher of Preemie Magazine.
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