That’s the number of days my son, Adrian, spent in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. That means we celebrated every single holiday, including his first birthday, in the hospital. When I share this information with people, the responses are usually along the lines of “I can’t even imagine!” Or “I couldn’t do that!” or maybe “I would go crazy!”. So from someone who survived those days, made it out alive and (somewhat) sane, here are suggestions to make that time just a little bit easier, should you find yourself in our shoes.
Become friends with them, make them your allies. While you may think doctors are calling the shots, in reality the nurses spend all day, every day with your child, and often are feeding suggestions to the doctors. I never thought much about nurses until my son was in the NICU, and holy moly those people are saints. Nurses are the ones who will encourage you to get in there and change those diapers, even when your baby is hooked up to more wires and machines than you can count. They are also the ones who will fix the issue when your overzealous diaper changing skills cause things to come unplugged and set off enough alarms to wake up the entire unit.
It’s tough, I know. You want to be beside your baby constantly. But you guys, sleep is SO important, especially when you’re trying to process the emotional stress of having a baby in the hospital. Ask the social worker at the hospital about a Ronald McDonald house, or another place near by where parents can stay. Our hospital gave us 3 nights a week at a hotel next door. Use those nights! Your baby needs you, but your baby also needs a momma (or poppa) who is rested and healthy!
Educate yourself as much as possible on your child’s condition. Some people will tell you to not look at statistics or read stories; I say knowledge is power. The more you know, the more informed a decision you can make regarding your child’s care.
And speaking of decisions, there will be a LOT to make. You are your child’s advocate in the hospital. If something doesn’t feel right, speak up! The doctors and specialists may be experts, but they are focused on many babies. You know your child best; never doubt your intuition.
Last but not least: Have fun!
Wait, fun? In the hospital? You betcha! My husband and I made a point to laugh, sing, play music, and generally keep a POSITIVE attitude despite a very poor outlook for our little guy. We truly believe that smiling, laughing, and music are a big part of what gave Adrian the will to overcome everything he faced.
About Courtney Espinosa:
Hey there, I’m Courtney, a twenty-something native Hoosier living in Indianapolis. One special little guy, Adrian, calls me mom. He’s a rambunctious 3 1/2-year-old who threw me and my husband, Starlin, in to the world of special needs parenting when he was born prematurely at 26 and 1/2 weeks.