Sitting beside your baby in the NICU can bring an array of emotions for parents. Seeing your child hooked up to machines with wires attached to their body can be scary and overwhelming. The majority of babies are in the NICU due to premature birth (born prior to 37 weeks gestation) but babies can be admitted for other reasons such as breathing problems low birth weight, heart conditions, and other complications. This experience can bring a variety of emotions that are normal, yet often confusing for parents.
Like any expecting parents, NICU parents dreamed of how the end of pregnancy would be, wrote a birth plan, and envisioned how the first few hours after birth would go. Mom looked forward to nursing her child, bringing home a healthy newborn, and starting life with the new addition to their family. When baby is in the NICU, the experience is very different. Moms may grieve the loss of the end of the pregnancy and feel jealousy towards other mothers who carried their babies full term and experienced a typical birth with big, healthy babies. It is frustrating to have to wait for the appropriate time to feed your baby, ask for help picking him up, and worry about germs when he comes home due to lower immunity. Feelings a sense of loss over these things is totally normal. Acknowledge your feelings and talk them through with a loved one or a professional counselor. In time you can begin to set new dreams and goals for your family’s future.
Fear is a common response to having a baby in the NICU, and it is totally normal. Most parents do not have previous experience with the NICU and this creates a fear of the unknown. Parents worry their child will have long term medical issues or that they are not capable of caring for them at home. The nurses and doctors are there to explain things to you and help you understand what is going on. Their goal is for you to feel comfortable caring for your child, both in the hospital setting and after it is time to go home.
Parents often question what they could have done differently in order to have a different outcome, a normal birth, and no NICU stay. Mothers in particular blame themselves for the situation. Feelings of guilt and blame are common when baby is in the NICU but most premature babies who are born early for unknown reasons. In the majority of cases nothing could have been done to prevent premature birth. Discuss your feelings with your partner and with the medical staff in the NICU. They will help you work through your feelings and move forward as a family.
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