For many of us, a preeclampsia diagnosis means an early or rushed delivery that places our baby in the NICU, sometimes for days, weeks or even months. If you are being discharged from the hospital before your baby is ready to leave, this post will contain some suggestions to hopefully help you prepare for this moment, and cope with what’s to come.
Dealing with your emotions upon discharge
I’m not gonna lie - it’s going to be very hard to leave without your baby. It’s okay to acknowledge your feelings! It’s okay to feel hurt and scared about the coming days. Here are some things that may help:
Ask the NICU staff if you can leave something with your scent on baby’s isolette or crib, and if you can bring back home something with baby’s scent with you.
Talk to a therapist to help you navigate this transition into the NICU life. If therapy isn’t an option for you, you can consult some options over at postpartum.net.
Talk to your loved ones about your fears, and reach out to other parents who’ve gone through similar (including the ones in this group!). You’ll find that you’re not alone in your thoughts.
Remember, it’s okay not to be okay.
Finding your footing
I found the NICU life became easier as time went by. I was more tired, of course, but everything became more familiar to me and I wasn’t so scared of the machines and the beeps and the frenzy anymore. So I would suggest these things to make the NICU experience a little gentler for you:
Look at your baby, not at the machines! The machines are kinda scary and they show numbers that keep changing. Sometimes they’ll drop and beep and go back to normal fast, but not fast enough to save you a heart attack. Focusing on baby’s state is a better option, because you’ll learn to notice how they’re actually doing, how their breathing is, their movements, etc. If you feel that something’s wrong, flag the staff and they’ll come right away. They’ll be able to address the problem or reassure you.
Journal! Keeping a journal of baby’s NICU stay can help you unload difficult information and also help process your feelings about what is going on. Some people like to keep track of weight records, medications, exams, and so on, while others may want to focus on milestones and fun things. You may want to write everything down! Explore until you find what works for you. Keeping a page on social media is also an option if you want to keep others updated on baby’s progress - it’s also a great way to save time and energy when you can’t talk about it a lot.
Ask questions! The NICU staff is usually very friendly and they’ll be happy to explain what the exams and pokes mean. If you’re not sure about something, ask!
Take pictures! It is amazing to see our babies grow.
How often should I visit my baby?
Truly, there’s no right answer for this. It depends on what works for you and your family, your NICU’s rules and hospital configuration, visiting hours, whether your baby has a private or shared room, and so on. Some women are able to go every day for many hours, while some others are only able to visit for a couple hours a day. There are some that may only be able to visit during weekends. Sometimes, visits are suspended if there is a procedure being done on another baby (this happened to me many times.) So, things can happen - there is no single right way.Your baby will benefit from your presence, so try to be there when you can. If you feel like you need a break, it is alright to take a day off! Baby needs you to be strong and rested, so prioritize your mental and physical health, too. You and baby will build a long-term bond over time, and it will not be negatively affected by this NICU stay.
Are you facing this situation now? Have you faced it in the past and have some wisdom to share? Let us know in the comments! And remember, this whole community is rooting for you and your baby.