Your feelings are tied up in that tiny little preemie bundle, and you have a hard time comprehending this small, wrinkled resemblance of a baby that is attached to every conceivable contraption…could belong to you. But when your heart is broken in more places then you could ever dream possible, and waiting seems endless, you are harshly welcomed into the world of parenthood.
It is truly staggering when you consider that an average of 1300 premature babies are born every day in the United States. If you are reading this article, you are probably the parent of one of these preemies. With so many things in this new out-of-control world of “living” in the NICU, what can you control?
Be There For Your Preemie
For you, the first thing you can control is being there for your baby. It may seem like you are standing around (in the way) not being helpful, but you are doing an important job. Your voice, your touch, your prayers, and your deep love is something your preemie needs and craves as he or she is trying to get stronger. Your baby can see you, hear you, and/or feel you. You are important and you are needed.
It is just as important that you are there mentally. Everything is so “out-of-body” and surreal, but you can begin focusing on the essentials of your preemie’s care. Learn about your baby’s routine, his reactions, and health limitations. Keep yourself informed about everything and you can then notice the small things that are overlooked in you preemie’s care. You can then request that these things be taken care of from a knowledgeable perspective, not just as a panicky parent.
Knowledge Is Power
“Knowledge Is Power“ is a common saying. An important one when you consider the fact that you are now your baby’s cheerleader and coach for the rest of his or her life. Begin learning all that you can about your preemie and her specific medical needs now and in the future. Books, articles (like this one), your baby’s doctor, reputable websites, and other experienced preemie parents are wonderful sources of inspiration, information, and education for you.
It may seem difficult to find the time when you are so stretched, but go slowly when you can find that time and keep at it. Make small goals for yourself. Remember, if you set goals, you will get much farther than if you don’t. You can do some of these things in the NICU at your baby’s side.
Look To The Future
Last, look to the future. It may seem silly to plan out what kind of parent you want to be for the next 18 years, but long-term goal setting is a very worthwhile occupation for any parent. Right now as time seems to drag on endlessly, it is difficult to see that time will soon pick up speed and the years will fly by. Practice little things now, like patience, and it will be easier when your preemie is older.
How are you going to react to your preemie when he or she does something that makes you mad, upset, frustrated, angry, happy, or laugh? How will you discipline and praise your baby? What kind of people will you let your baby be around, and not? Do you have any family traditions you would like to start? What healthy habits do you want to instill in your preemie?
If you keep your mind busy with all of the things you can do for your new preemie, then it is harder to fall into constant anxiety. Try not to worry (though it seems an impossible task) about “will my baby make it”, or “what kind of problems will my baby have”, or “I can’t do this anymore”, or “Is my baby in pain?”, and whatever else is plaguing you. Stay focused on your goals, and keep your mind thinking positive thoughts even if you are tempted to do otherwise.
Remember, you are the best parent your preemie could ever have, and your baby is depending on you. You can do it if you take one day at a time. At times you may even have to break it down by minutes taking one crisis at a time. You are not alone, and you can forge your way through this trial as many parents have done before you.