Surviving the NNICU as a new mom.

This time of year really elicits all the feels from me. Four short years ago we were sitting in the NNICU, waiting so patiently to bring our sweet little girl home. Those 50 days felt like an eternity, but we survived it- somehow.

The NNICU really worked me over- emotionally. I felt like I was in the scene of the Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy’s house was spinning. I felt lost, isolated, terrified, and really numb. The NNICU can really be a terrifying place for a (first time) parent. The memories that I have of meeting my daughter for the first time are something that I work so hard to take the medical setting out of. All of the machines surrounding the other tiny little babies in the room and the hustle and bustle of the room. The environment, although it was quiet was still overstimulating. Although I was diagnosed with PTSD/PPD shortly afterward, to this day I am still not able to use the shampoo I used while I was on bedrest before the birth of my daughter. It brings me back to showering in the hospital and all of the IVs I personally had to contend with.

Meeting Julia in the NNICU wasn’t at all how I had imagined our first moments together as mother & daughter. But we made the experience our own and our time together was precious.

Looking back on this experience I can say a few things that I wish I could have shared with myself four years ago.

  1. Give yourself grace, after all you did just give birth and the emotions/hormones that surround this very event are intense. You can’t expect to go back to normal and suppress the feelings you are feeling. I delivered Julia 11 weeks early- I basically grieved loosing my entire third trimester. All of the feelings are valid, ask your team to help you work through these emotions. 
  2. Take it day by day– heck, hour by hour if thats what you need to do. Even though Julia was early, she was perfectly healthy. But she still needed an IV and oxygen to support her feeding and growing. While it was hard to see her hooked up to a lot of wires, it was for the best.
  3. ASK FOR HELP. This was something that I felt completely alone with. I think I thought that immediate family would step up to help us, but sometimes they couldn’t process what exactly was going on. I remember being alone when my husband returned back to work- recovering from major emergency surgery and couldn’t get out of bed for a long period of time. I remember just wishing I had someone to sit in bed and keep me company, even if I was just sleeping. I had a few close friends that came to support me and set up her nursery.
  4. Take pictures. Take all of the pictures of your sweet miracle baby, you don’t want to miss some of their first moments because you’re afraid to remember that moment in time filled with cords and wires, its just another level of their story.
  5. Remember you’re a team. While you personally just experienced giving birth to your child, your partner is also trying to grasp what happened. Give them an opportunity to work through their emotions. Lean on each other. You need to survive this- together.
  6. Primary Care Team. Something that saved us during my daughter(s) stay was learning that I could advocate who I wanted to take care of my daughter and even who I didn’t want to participate in her care. These women were incredible- they cared about us as new parents, celebrated milestones along side us, and ultimately loved our sweet girl like their own family. We are still in contact with them, if you ladies are reading this: we love you!
  7. ISOLATION IS YOUR FRIEND. Being isolated isn’t going to be the end of the world. Sure, you may miss out on those “normal” bring home a newborn experiences of family & friends coming to visit. But in the long run, staying in isolation until your expected due date is the safest thing to do. But you can make sure to take a drive and get a coffee from the drive through, it’s the little moments that will carry you through this transition.
  8. CELEBRATE. Even though you may not want to, celebrate your new bundle of joy. It may not be as you envisioned, and some people may not be able to cope with what happened either. But it is good to try and make this transition as normal as possible for you.

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