Premature babies (or preemies) are all very unique. They need specialized care and attention from nurses and their own mothers. They need us as much (as we need them), but we also need to be prepared physically and emotionally for all that is to come. For those expecting mothers who might expectedly or unexpectedly have a premature baby, in the next few minutes I hope to help prepare you for all that lies ahead for you. It’s not going to be a cake walk but there is a happy end. For those that have already given birth once, do you agree with what I’ve said? What would you add?
You just had a baby, slow down.
When you first have a baby your body is exhausted! Day or night, 10 hours of labor or 1, you will need to rest. You just had a baby! A whole person just came out of you. You did amazing, now is the time to rest.
When you first give birth to a preemie, the baby will most likely be taken straight to the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit where other premature and struggling babies will be) to be checked and monitored. It is normal to feel worried and stressed about what could happen, but just like in an airplane emergency, you need to ‘put on your own oxygen first’. You need to rest up and be physically ready for what naturally comes after giving birth. You need to take care of your self first so that you can give your all to your baby. They are going to need you in the coming days and weeks.
Your newest addition is being taken care of by registered nurses and doctors.
Whenever I was in the hospital, if I wasn’t with my baby, I would feel guilty. If I had to eat, I would take a quick walk to grab something unhealthy, because it was fast, so that I could hurry back. After a few days of this I had a realization that in this situation I was not the only one caring for my newborn, but I was pretty much the only one caring for me. I needed to eat right and take care of myself for my baby. I needed breaks to re-energize and time to prepare for what ever happened after this. I needed the nurses and doctors to do their jobs too (sometimes without my interference).
I found more often that when I was there the nurses would slow down their visits (which was good for baby and me), but I didn’t know what my little one needed at that point. I needed to rely on the care team for my baby, to know my baby and all that she needed.
(Some of you might feel a little apprehensive about having nurses and doctors around your baby, either because of a simple preference or maybe a bad previous experience. That’s totally understandable. I have been lucky and blessed to have good nurses and doctors to take care of me and my babies.)
Your baby knows you: your voice, your scent, and your loving touch.
When you first see your baby, it is going to feel a bit scary. You may feel helpless and unimportant in the caring process, but don’t! He (or she) is your baby. You loved and nurtured this tiny baby before you even met. You are his or her (or their!) mother. He may only know you from the inside, but he knows you.
He (or she) knows your voice, so talk to him, sing to him, tell him how strong he is and how much you love him. As you express your feelings towards him (or her) you will feel his love for you as well. It may not be visible, but in those sweet moments you will know that feeling of love is being reciprocated.
They know your scent. Even if it was just a quick wave goodbye off to the NICU or if you got to hold your little one, when that day arrives that you get to touch that tiny baby again they recognise it. Then when that lucky day comes that you get to hold that sweet child, that skin to skin time will complete you and them again.
Let others know how you are feeling even if they have no solution.
I am the type of person to suffer in silence and suffer is exactly what it felt like. Not only am I carrying my own emotions and fears, but that of my family. It’s a heavy load to bear. I just needed a listening ear. Luckily I have an amazing husband; I don’t know what I would do without him, but sometimes I needed (and still do sometimes) a girlfriend just to listen, cry with, and get me out of my own head.
Having a NICU baby can be hard and sometimes no-one truly understands until you tell them what it’s like, how it feels, and what would actually help. (new blog and link here in the future)
Let it out. Crying is good for your soul.
After every birth your emotions are running so high that you truly need a day to cry. Around three days after birth the pressure of a newborn and people with advice can be very overwhelming. You need to let it out. You need to be your own type of parent, let others in and find the balance between the two. It’s normal. It’s such a steep learning curve and no-one is perfect.
As a preemie mom it’s a bit more extreme with all of the unknown. Not only do you have the regular pressures of advice and striving for perfection, but the truth of it is you are helpless without the doctors and other staff.
I am sure if there was time to prepare for something like this it would make it a touch better, but there is never time.
The pressure to preform, be perfect, and keep everything together is overwhelming and unachievable so just let it out. Cry, relieve the pressure, clear your mind and heart and then carry on. You can and you will.
This is your baby; you do have options.
Being a mother we may feel that someone else can do better than us or the doctors can do it without us. Although the doctors may have many more years of training and experience, this is your baby!
You have a say. Do some research, understand what you want for your baby. You are the voice. Doctors and nurses do have the best interest in mind, but it may not be in line with what you feel is best. You do have options and opinions when it comes to your child. Let them be known.
During my NICU stay I did not want my baby to have a soother. My first baby only had a soother until 6 months and she did amazing without it, but because I did not make this known to anyone else for my preemie, they gave her a soother on day two without a word to me. They were doing what they thought was best by giving my baby a comfort object while she was going through some of the painful procedures like I.V and feeding tubes, but I didn’t know. Needless to say, I was a bit upset.
Don’t let a day go by that you stuff in your feelings because you fear you are not correct or risk of offending others. This is your baby!
Having a baby is challenging. A preemie is just as challenging, but with more specific needs. It will be long nights of worry and long days of watching. Let others support and nurture you. Let yourself have a break. Understand that the doctor or nurse is there for you and the baby, trust them when you feel you can, but also don’t let your voice go unheard. You need to take care of yourself and your baby. That may mean you first, but your baby will be okay. You need to express your emotions and let others in. They can support you more fully when they know how you feel and what the real need is.
Most importantly this is your baby! You are the mother, you have a say and you are in charge. Your baby loves you and knows you. Be yourself. Be the mom you want to be.
This experience is hard, there is no ‘one size fits all’. We all do the best we can with what we are given. You can do this!