I started this blog because with my babies, once I got used to life in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) I was scared to leave. There was structure, a routine, constant help and I didn’t have to be alone and wonder if I was being a good mother or doing the right thing.
Someone was always there to reassure or correct me.
Life after the NICU I felt abandoned and like I was going to fail without my support system. These babies were tiny, fragile and needed special care, so how was I, alone, supposed to meet these demands without a degree and a monitor on their feet all the time?
I didn’t sleep for fear that without a monitor they would stop breathing. Every feed I measured every milliliter and panicked at every drop of spit up or cough.
Now to getting past that.
First of all, I’ll start with the obvious, it’s okay to feel like this and completely normal to be paranoid and worried. Your baby was born and instead of the perfect introduction to motherhood you heard all about, your baby, or babies, are rushed away, sometimes you get a glimpse or a kiss if you’re lucky, then they’re gone. (I have a separate post on this topic Preparing for life in the NICU.) So of course you feel scared, but one thing is key: you have your baby out of the NICU because experts in neonatal medicine determined it was healthy and strong enough to be with you, this will take time to adjust, maybe until your baby gets sturdier, but it is okay.
In my personal experience, I struggled to bond with my babies after the NICU, I was too scared. I saw them as premature babies that required feeding and monitoring for progress, not my newborns for cuddling and enjoyment. I needed reminding I was allowed to pick up my own children without a reason and just hold them. Remember, cuddles and skin-to-skin all result in the magical hormone oxytocin, the love hormone! This helps bonding, postpartum depression and, if you’re breastfeeding, milk production.
That brings me to my next subject, feeding. Feeding your baby after the NICU is stressful enough; making sure they keep up their weight and tolerate feeds; so don’t stress about how they get it! Breastfeeding, expressing, the bottle or through a nasal tube! You and your child have had a hard time and as long as they are fed and happy you have succeeded. (Check my All the ways to feed your baby post for more feeding information.)
Now to feeding yourself. I include this topic because for the first five months as a mother I ate one microwave meal a day and cereal bars. Even less during the NICU time. Remember, that baby needs a happy mother, eating keeps energy up and helps stabilize your mood. Depression and sleep deprivation are some of the plights of an every newborn mother and eating regularly can really help that.
Stick with the magic routine the nurses have conveniently set up for you! It’s hard to get a routine in play but one advantage of the NICU, it’s already done! Nappy change, feed, burp, cuddle, mama time!
And lastly, in my opinion the scariest, take baby out! As long as baby is safe to go out according to doctors go out for a walk, or grocery shopping even. Yes, it’ll be scary and yes, you’ll get sick of telling people not to touch or kiss or rub dirty money on your babies face for luck! Maybe even feel over protective or stupid, you’re not, you’re being safe and rightly concerned. But after the first time you are free to roam the outside world and start enjoying life as a mother, free to show off that gorgeous strong NICU grad!