i’ve been wanting to write this post for a long time. and things became much more clear after we bailed out of the PICU which surprisingly was a completely different experience from the NICU. the more specialist we see and hospital visits we make the more we come to appreciate our time at the NICU and PICU. I’ll get into the PICU a little later but today I really want to focus on the NICU.
there are a few things that caught me off guard about spending time at the NICU and since our stay there i’ve known quite a few friends with babies spending time there.
1.) it’s not a bad place to be. at the time it will not seem that way. you will be wondering why you’re there and you will not be able to wait until you get out. but i would encourage you if you are there to slow down and take it in. the nurses and doctors in that unit are highly highly skilled and there is no better place for your baby to be safety wise than the NICU. while we were only there for 9 days we learned so much from the nurses that made it comfortable for us to go home with a sick child. it sounds weird but we learned how to watch for babies cues, breathing abnormalities and even how to change a diaper. sounds weird but i hadn’t done it in ten years! it gives you an opportunity to really learn and adjust to having a newborn with a team of experts watching your back.
2.) you will sometimes have to speak up. i’m not saying that we experienced “bad nurses” but we did have some situations where it was uncomfortable and you have to speak up because well, your baby can’t. there was one night where we had some less than motherly nurses aka the first thing they talked about was when they were going to take their breaks and who went out with who. when you are in the moment, hormones are high because chances are you just had a baby, emotions are extreme and you’re fricken tired. you have to remain calm but you also have to be vocal about your childs care and your preference with their care. while i wanted to make sure that a nurse was by ottos bedside at all times no nurse does that. but what i could do was express my concerns, otto is having a hard time eating by bottle could you make sure when we have to leave that someone tries to feed him via bottle? otto has been doing ______ can you make sure someone keeps an eye on that? they were SO accommodating and honestly i slept a lot easier knowing i addressed my concerns. but just to make sure i walked across the hospital at 12am and 3am just to make sure.. but honestly having an open and honest dialogue with your care team will make you feel so much more comfortable with the care and just being in the nicu.
3.) no question is a dumb question. this is your child. you grew it, you gave birth to it and you have every right to ask any question you want regarding your childs condition and care. with otto and his heart i asked a million questions and sometimes more than once to the same doctor. trust me, the care team is there to help you understand. you will have a peace of mind if you understand everything that is going on. i asked so many questions over and over because honestly it was hard for me to understand. i’m not an analytical person and yea sometimes the doctors had to draw me a diagram but you know what? i understood what was going on.
4.) you will be busy. for sitting there all day long you will be busy the doctors will be coming in all day and you are going to want to talk to them and hear what they have to say. DO NOT MISS ROUNDS. ask your nurse when rounds are. This is when you have your childs entire care team in one place and you can hear them discuss the plan for the day and days ahead and then ask them all questions while they are in one place. Joe and I found rounds to be super beneficial and we never missed one while we we there. i know not everyone has this availability but it was so important.
5.) you will look back on this time and treasure it. i won’t say remember it fondly but this was what joe and i referred to as our first real test as parents. it wasn’t a fun time by any means but it really was a special time. we still see our NICU nurses around and they remember and ask about otto. you build a team bond there. and it’s special. i know a million times over we would have rather just gone home but honestly we are so grateful for the time there.
i know that each experience is different and like i said we were fortunate enough to only be there 9 days but i just thought i would share some of our unexpected thoughts and reflections on our time there.