Bringing your baby home after a NICU stay is by far one of the best days ever. Up until this point, your baby has been taken care of by medical professionals around the clock for maybe weeks or months! You made it through the "NICU roller coaster", you get to take care of your baby without anyone telling you when or how to touch your little one. Yay! This is bliss! The feeling of getting to ride in a wheelchair while holding your baby in your arms is just, one of the greatest feelings ever.
For us, Jaxson was able to come home after spending 17 weeks in the NICU. He was discharged with oxygen, a pulse oximeter and 4 medications. My husband and I both felt like NICU nurses by the time our son came home. Throughout the months we had learned medical jargon, and so many things we never even knew existed! Once he came home we began the journey of balancing being Jaxson's parents as well as taking care of his medical requirements. Most parents deliver their baby full term and are sent home within 1-3 days. I remember a friend (who had a baby a few days after Jaxson came home) telling me that she wished she had some of the knowledge we had gained, and how she would've love to have a monitor to track her baby's heart rate and pulse. We knew SO SO much, and when she made that comment a part of me felt defensive- she probably didn't mean any harm, but, we didn't ask to be in this position to be inundated with medical "stuff"! No parent really wants to have the constant worry factor looming over their head, or tirelessly watching the monitor all day and all night. And of course hearing the alarm ringing loudly not knowing if your child may be in distress or if its just a false alarm because the censor is out of place. These were just a few of our worries in the beginning. This was our new normal, one that would challenge us as parents and as a couple.
Here are a few things to remember when bringing your baby home from the NICU:
1. People will say strange things sometimes because they simply just don't know what to say. I can't tell you how many eyebrow raising things I have heard, however, I always try to remember that we are all human. Seeing a premature baby on oxygen brings about a lot of conversation amongst strangers and some just don't know how to respond. Please know, everyone isn't trying to be rude, some are simply clueless to the world of prematurity and may need a little help in understanding.
NOTE: While most experience happiness, feelings of being overwhelmed also can come into play. When they send you home with your little one there is a moment of pure joy, 100% sigh of relief JOY and maybe a little bit of nervousness. Remember, it will take a little time for everyone to adjust, allow you and your baby time to adjust.
2. Allow yourself time to grieve and own your feelings of sadness or anger or even guilt. It doesn't make you any less of a mother if you are honest about how you feel in regards to your pregnancy being cut short and your baby having to stay in the NICU. Feeling guilty is normal BUT please know, that your baby being in the NICU is NOT your fault.
3. Your baby needs time to adjust to his or her's new environment. Be patient with your baby and yourself.
4. Remember that your little ones actual age and their gestational age are two different things and may play a huge part in how they are acting. Our son was 4 months old (actual) and 1 day old (adjusted) when he came home...and he acted every bit of how a newborn does.
5. And lastly, if you are beyond overwhelmed seek support. Talking helps! I found in the beginning that talking about how I was feeling was therapeutic. I also wrote down some of my thoughts which have now become a blog :)
We are nowlittle over 4 months removed from the NICU and doing very well. The first month took a lot of time adjusting and getting into a flow, but we made it! There may or may not have been lots of coffee, sleep deprivation, trial and errorand a few tears BUT we survived and are surviving daily!
I sincerely hope that this helps you...or maybe even someone you know. And remember, you are equipped to do the impossible you are a MOM!