Having a voice is empowering in most environments, and that holds true for the NICU. In fact, when parents are able to voice their concerns and thoughts, it helps them process the situation.
Even if you can’t hold your baby for a few days or weeks, you can still interact with them. Put your hands into the incubator to gently touch them or open the cover and talk to your baby - they will already recognise your voice from when they were in utero.
Record their little milestones and take loads of pictures. Journaling your baby’s progress can be very therapeutic, and it will also help you see the progress they make each day. When at home at night, it can help with that empty feeling you have because your baby is not with you.
If someone offers to mind other children, make dinner, clean your house or do some shopping, take their help. Family and friends often feel useless and want to support you in any way they can.
It is important that you have a person to talk with whom you can share your thoughts. Link in with parents in the unit, go to social media sites or ask a charity like Irish Premature Babies for a NICU veteran buddy to chat/email.
Eat healthy, drink plenty of fluids and rest when you can. It is physically and emotionally draining and it is important that you stay healthy and strong. And make sure you keep your six week post-delivery check-up.
You can’t stay with your baby all the time and you should never feel guilty for popping out for lunch or coffee. It is important to get away from the intense environment of the NICU which can be really stressful.
Change their nappies, tube feed them, and when ready give them a bath. It is important you feel involved in the care of her baby. At times, you may feel like an outsider, but that little prem needs you more than anybody in the world.
Many women wrongfully feel very guilty for having a premature baby, but remember, this is not your fault. Don’t blame yourself for the preterm birth, it happens to 15 million women worldwide each year.