This post is a bit delayed (welcome to mom life I guess?!) but after 23 days in the NICU we received the OK to go home last Wednesday night. While this wasn’t the journey I would have chosen for Anika, things all worked out and we have met/connected with some fabulous people along the way.
Between the copious hours sitting in a pleather rocker in our little room, late night pumps, and general mom hormones I have developed a list of lessons learned/silver linings about our experience:
1.) There is an amazing network of people who know what you are going through. By far the most valuable advice/sanity came from talking to those who had been through the same experience. Whether friends, friends-of-friends, or people I had lost touch with, those who made a point to reach out meant more to me than they probably know. One thing I struggled with (and that honestly still bugs me) is the feeling like I “kicked” Anika out, that her being in the NICU was my fault. While that is completely illogical, I couldn’t kick the feeling and despite being surrounded by people it made me feel extremely lonely. It wasn’t until someone reached out via Instagram who had the same exact experience and lonely feelings that I felt “normal” and able to address. Even if you aren’t close with someone, don’t hesitate to send a text/call/social media message, you could make someone’s day 🙂
Also, who better than to understand the day-to-day struggles than your fellow NICU neighbors. Talking with others gave me a better perspective on our situation (could be worse) and a general sense of community within the NICU. I had the pleasure of “rooming” next to a FANTASTIC couple who had the same issue (and doctor) as us – the mom and i exchanged numbers and would text during the day and randomly chat. She made my stay 100% better and I can’t wait until her little guy is out so we can grab a drink and chat outside of Fairview Southdale!
2.) It’s like Baby Boot Camp: This advice came from some good friends of ours (and was reiterated by others) and is 100% true. The benefit to a NICU stay is that you get to leave knowing your baby for more than 36 hours – you know their sounds, needs, and they are on a bit of a schedule. And that leads me to my next takeaway…
3.) Leverage the staff (and get to know them, they are great): You gain extended access to baby experts – from nurses, lactation consultants, doctors. They see babies everyday, have been doing this for years, and probably know your baby better than you do! Ask questions and get their advice,
Also get to know them and thank them – they are REALLY great and you spend a lot of time together. They are the best and little things go a long way (pizza, donuts, care packages, etc). In my case they came-in during a blizzard and paid for a hotel so they could make their next shift to take care of Anika and the other NICU babes. If that doesn’t deserve a snack at minimum what does 😉 Shout-out to the staff at Fairview Southdale who made leaving Anika each night easier knowing she was in the BEST care.
4.) Find a schedule that works for you: At first I was really worried about what I “should” be doing. After talking to others, the nurses I trusted, etc. I came to the conclusion that what was best for Anika was for me to be healthy both mentally and physically. For me that meant not staying overnight (I tried it once and I was a mess). I would call first thing in the morning to find out when her next feeding would be and make sure I was there for at least four of her eight feedings a day (around 8:00am – 7:00pm). This ensured I got a decent night sleep at home and could find some normalcy while still getting quality time with Anika. We also took advantage some nights of “the best/most expensive babysitters in the world” and did date night which was important for us as a couple (a break from the small room and baby talk). That may not work for everyone, but my point being do what works for you and consistency helps create normalcy!
5.) People are the best: Going through this has made me realize how amazing people are. We can’t thank my mom, sister, family in general, friends, neighbors who have made these last few weeks as stress free as possible with their visits, food, help with Stella pup, and listening ears. Also again to the staff at Fairview and my favorite OB (shout out Dr. Toft) – thank you for taking such good care of us!
It has been quite the ride, and the first of many hiccups of parenthood I’m sure – thanks for following along and supporting Anika! Now onto figuring out this parenting thing (even Stella is adjusting) 🙂