I became a NICU parent last October and by golly if 2020 did not have enough challenges, this completely turned our lives upside down. Here is a list, by no means exhaustive of things every NICU parent should know!
1. Pride Benefits No One
During our time at the NICU, we very quickly found out who “our people” were. Our little guy came 10 weeks early and we absolutely were not expecting it. We learned very quickly if we wanted to stay afloat, we would need to request the help of others and not withdraw into isolation.
I want to add that “others” = safe people in your life who decrease stress and not exacerbate it. This was difficult for us, as we are used to being ‘the helpers’ rather than the ones receiving help. Most folks love being able to help others, so do not block your blessing and do not believe the lie that you are a burden to others.
2. Counseling and Medication are Game-Changers
Look, plenty of people get a little skittish when we talk about therapy and most definitely when we talk about psychotropic medication (Is that pride popping its head into this section of the blog too?!) I should also note, I am biased as I am a licensed professional counselor, but man oh man, I know for a fact medication and therapy helped me and consequently my family during this tough season.
My post-partum anxious and depressed mind, and the continual trauma of having a NICU baby would have easily gotten the best of me and potentially my marriage, if I had not continued individual and couple’s therapy. The stress of having a NICU baby is palpable, everyone is in overdrive, and as a result starts to operate in less helpful ways. Therapy provided moments of feeling grounded each week of the journey. Never underestimate the power of someone holding space for you, without giving their opinion, trying to fix the situation, or trying to fix your feelings, and reminding you of what you are overcoming was wonderful.
3. It is Okay to Not Want to Share the Journey
So here is an area I continue to struggle with. All feelings are welcome, so there is a part of me that does not feel alone in this. During my kiddo’s NICU stay, I did not post about it on social media. I did not want to share my experience with people who do not genuinely care about me. No shade to the social media world, but I do not care about the likes, and I had ZERO capacity for others well-meaning comments like, “Everything will be okay,” and “God doesn’t give us more than we can bear,”.
There were not enough hours in the day to answer people’s questions. I literally only wanted people speaking into our lives who would be 110 percent supportive and would speaking life and encouragement into our family. Every day was so terrifying and hard. It literally felt like perpetually holding your breath and coming up from near the moments you might blackout from oxygen deprivation.
I am fairly sure a few wrong comments might have taken me over the edge because the right comments were hard to accept. So, in a nutshell protect your peace!! It has taken me sometime to feel comfortable sharing pics of my youngest. I love keeping him to myself. Maybe as time goes on, I will share more, or maybe I will not and all of that is okay.
The NICU is hard, there is no way around that.
As parents, we want to provide our children with all of their needs. As a mama, I wanted to be enough for my baby, and coming to terms with my baby needing life-sustaining medical care was a scary and hard reality to accept.
During any NICU journey, please know that you are the best parent for your baby, grief comes in all forms including feeling the loss of the person you were pre-NICU and the anticipation of who you were expecting to become with a sweet addition to your family. Know that you are brave beyond measure and there are NICU support systems ready to wrap their arms around you and your family. You are not alone.