My son, DJ was just shy of 2-years old when his brother, Joshua was born prematurely at 26-weeks gestation.
In that moment, life as I knew it had been thoroughly disrupted. Our routine came to a crashing halt as all sense of normalcy flew out the window along with my sanity. In its place, gut-wrenching fears I had never experienced before in my life nestled in as I watched my impossibly tiny child grow, develop and fight for his life outside of me. I also experienced constant guilt as I left my toddler at home with others to care for him and then, let’s add MORE guilt as I left my fragile newborn every night in a sterile, cold environment and in the care of strangers. Momma cloning had fast become a fantasy of mine!
Navigating the terrifying NICU journey while you have a child(ren) at home takes balance and patience as you learn to adjust to the rabbit hole you’ve been dropped into.
In this new world, I soon learned, to be able to survive NICU life and home life, I had to learn to adapt. I had to learn to figure out what worked and when it didn’t work, I had to learn to be patient with myself.
Looking back on Joshua’s 129 days in the NICU, I realized that there were important key factors that helped me get through it all. First, I had to learn to ask for help. Not easy for many of us, but so necessary. Allowing friends and family to help can ease some of the burden we carry. I remember a friend chauffeuring me to the NICU one day as I was just too exhausted to drive. Even the simple things can carry us through and help us make it to another day. Also, I had to learn to be forgiving of the friends and family who just didn’t understand what I was up against. Until you’ve experienced it, you will never understand what it means to have a preemie and how isolating it can feel, so reaching out and getting to know other NICU moms who understood what I was going through helped me feel less alone and less isolated. They became my community of support. Lastly, I had to learn to distinguish between the things that were out of my control and the things that I could control like getting educated about the NICU and pumping breast milk to help my preemie thrive. Ultimately, I had to recognize that I was doing the best I could for myself and my family.
Six years later, our NICU stay is long over but the lessons and perspective I’ve gained from those days stay with me as we continue to move ever forward with my former micro-preemie.
If you have traveled this road, what tips do you have for mothers with babies in the NICU who also have children at home?