babyMaternity Magazine
Creative Child

7 Common Feelings of NICU Parents

by Sarah Lyons

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Feeling “on display”

Many NICU’s have open areas with multiple cribs. Parents can feel like they get little or no privacy. Curtains can do little to keep conversations private and nursing moms can feel like they are out in the open. Nurses and doctors are in and out and it can feel like they are “watching” you all the time. While uncomfortable, parents should note that the NICU staff is watching to make sure you know how to care for your baby, they are there to help. As a NICU parent, let family and friends know that you need some time alone to unwind, they will be happy to give you the space you need. 

Powerlessness

In the NICU your baby will be surrounded by nurses and doctors who are caring for her. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed by the medical equipment. Ask the nurses to teach you how to work around the tubes and wires to change diapers, take temperatures, and bathe your child. Once you begin to be a part of your child’s care, you will begin to feel less helpless and more like a parent of a newborn.

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Anger

Some parents may have feelings of anger that their child is in the NICU. It is easy to blame doctors, NICU staff, or your partner for the situation. You may feel angry that someone  else is taking care of your child or that you are in this situation in the first place. Anger can be expressed in different ways. One person may express their anger by acting rude, demanding, and vocal while another may retreat from the situation or into themselves resulting in a form of silent treatment. Try to let go of anger and focus on you and your baby. Vent to a friend, write in a journal, or use exercise as an outlet. Feelings of anger take a lot of energy and you will need to save all of yours for taking care of yourself and baby.

Feeling disconnected

When your baby is in the NICU for an extended amount of time, parents may feel a disconnect from the child. This can be a surprising and disturbing feeling, but it is both normal and common for NICU parents. Shortly after birth baby may have been whisked away for medical care. Hours pass before baby and parents are reunited and then it may be several more days before it is safe for parents to hold their child. Mom is often released from the hospital long before baby is allowed to join them at home, and during that time the main caregivers are doctors and nursing staff. It is easy to see why parents would feel disconnected from their child. Be honest about your feelings and share them with the NICU staff. They will encourage you to become more involved with baby’s care and help you work through your feelings in a healthy way.

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As a NICU parent you may feel one or all of these emotions as you walk through this journey. Keep in mind that the NICU staff is there to help guide and encourage you and your family through the process. Many NICU’s have social worker on staff to provide any resources you may need to make a smooth transition in bringing baby home. In time, baby will grow and thrive, and the NICU experience will be a thing of the past.

Sarah Lyons is a stay at home wife and mother of six children, including 18 month old triplets. Using creative consequences with her kids has improved their behavior and encourages healthy relationships with each other.

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