Making Memories in the NICU

Crafting good moments in the NICU can be hard. When pregnant you prepare for all the normal, beautiful things a healthy pregnancy brings. You decorate the nursery, stock up on diapers, and prepare your home for baby’s arrival. Special memories happen every moment — from the time you bring your little one home every moment is a new memory and something you’ll cherish forever.

But what happens when you don’t get to bring your baby home? What if days, weeks, and months trickle by while your little one fights for life in the hospital? For most families, making memories at home just happens but for many NICU parents, memories feel a lot more like PTSD.

We’ve been in the NICU for (almost) 5 months. It wasn’t until Uriah was 2 months old that I realized I had been unconsciously holding back on making memories. Thoughts like, I’ll be a real mom when I am solely in charge of my Uriah’s care and we’ll do special things when we’re out of this place in back in the real world silently affected my behavior.

I mean, how do you make memories when you can’t even pick up your baby because he’s in an incubator, with a breathing tube, and a picc line iv? How do you create special moments when you’re always surrounded by staff, always hearing loud alarms, and always afraid for your little one’s life? How do you make the moments between morphine drips, infections, and surgeries fun?

Sweet parent, if you’re in a similar situation, it can feel trivial and too hard to focus on making memories with your little one. You may feel like waiting to get home before you start creating special moments; you may even be too afraid to do special things with your child until you know, for sure, if he or she is even coming home.

I know. I’ve been there.

But, at some point in your NICU-parent career, you’ll wake up and realize that this is your story. This moment in the NICU is as much a part of your motherhood as anything to come. Your baby will never again be a baby. He will grow up, one month at a time, and you’ll look back and wonder where your tiny, darling preemie went.

I know. I’m there. (I mean, how did I become a parent to a fourteen pound, babbling baby boy?)

So, how do NICU parents make special memories when life is anything but perfect?

With intention. It’s very easy to let hours slip by when you spend most of your time in a hospital. Right now, my life revolves around pumping, arriving at the hospital, grabbing a cup of coffee, meeting with doctors, playing with Uriah, physical therapy, changing diapers, putting Uriah to bed, pumping, eating lunch, giving Uriah a bath, trach tie changes, playtime and therapy, naptime, pumping, and going back to the Ronald McDonald House.

When I am not purposeful, those hours fly by. Sometimes, I literally cannot remember what kept me busy all day and, for the life of me, I can’t figure out why I am so tired.

I am purposing to be intentional. I’m going to slow down. Here’s to really playing with my little boy instead of worrying about whether or not we’re meeting milestones. Here’s to reading him his favorite book and taking the time to really give Dr. Seuss the drama he deserves. Here’s to holding the pacifier patiently, changing the diapers endlessly, and making trach changes as fun as they can be.

Because, Mom, this is your moment. This is your motherhood. And you’ll never get these days back. Here are some specific ways to make memories when your child is in the NICU:

  • Read dramatically to your child … and watch their facial expressions
  • Forget milestones … celebrate every victory
  • Really take in your child … admire her gummy grin, cherish his sparkling eyes, enjoy her tiny, perfect feet
  • Take pictures … really good ones where you see more of the baby than wires, if possible
  • Sing nursery rhymes … do the hand motions of Itsy Bitsy Spider and Patty Cake
  • Learn how to maneuver around the tubes and wires so you can pick up your little one yourself … or enjoy simply resting your hands on your preemie and feeling they’re warmth
  • Decorate your baby’s area … make a Likes and Dislikes poster for the staff … scrapbook pictures … draw a nametag and hang it on baby’s incubator
  • Take time to meet other NICU parents … really listen to their stories … really pray for them when you think of their stories
  • Do things for your baby with your spouse, if possible
  • Offer to bring your nurse a glass of ice water … or a $.25 Laffy Taffy
  • Create a schedule your baby can get used to around the staff’s schedule
  • Forget milestones (oh, did I say that already? That’s because this is probably the most important thing you can do for yourself and your baby).

These are just a few ideas that have helped us make memories. Yes, I can’t wait to get home. But more than that, I want to make these days special for Uriah. I want to be able to look back on these days and say, Yea, those days were hard but we sure had a few good moments, didn’t we? 

Talking about making the most of our moments why don’t you hop over to my new friend Stephanie’s blog, The Vintage Modern Wife. She has a brilliant, beautiful post about creating a sensory filled Easter for her little one. I think she has some EXCELLENT ideas for making this Easter special, especially if you have a little on in the hospital.

NICU parents, what are some ways you have made special memories while in the hospital? Are there any budget-friendly, space-friendly ideas you could share with us? I’d love to hear!

Love, blessings, and coffee,

Frannie

Small, Beautiful Dreams

AuthenticVirtue.com

We’ve had a long season waiting out fall and winter. The last 6 months have been full of unknowns, fearful nights, and anxious possibilities; I almost feel like we’ve been soldiers, working through the hard days, with our backs to the plow. Simple joys have become sweeter than ever — cozy nights and early mornings with coffee in our own home are rare treasures.

I’m also four months postpartum and I think hormones are beginning to fluctuate into a new normal; my mind is less foggy and my body is feeling better than ever. I’m so thankful for the springtime that is outside and within my heart.

I was browsing Pinterest looking for spring-time decor ideas I could use for our home when it hit me … I’m dreaming again. I’m dreaming of being home with our family (#DuncanPartyOfThree). I dream of planting flowers on the porch with Uriah in a swing beside me. My mind’s eye plays over our upcoming nights — how fun it will be to welcome Dalton home and finish dinner while he plays with our darling son. I’m dreaming of resuming weekly coffee visits with my dear coffee-loving friend while Uriah plays or naps. I ache to snuggle with my family on the couch and read, talk, and play together. To make dinners in my creamy yellow kitchen with a baby in the house and a husband who loves to come home to us every day.

There’s something so refreshing and good about dreams. I used to think that dreams needed to be big and spiritual or else they were not worthy. But these last 6 months have taught me that even the smallest dreams, done with joy and love and for the Lord, are absolutely what we need in our homes and lives. We need mothers who dream of serving their families with love. We need men who desire to work hard for their families and yearn even more for times together. It’s okay to dream about planting gardens, keeping home, and visiting with friends and reaching out to community. These hopes are small but they’re life-giving.

The beautiful thing? I remember writing a post about dreams in 2011 (I was 21 and had yet to meet Dalton). In almost every way, God has met those dreams I shared. Isn’t that beautiful? To think that I have been so blessed renews my heart with so much praise. Thank You, God, for knowing and caring for your people so well!

So, here’s to dreaming. Here’s to waiting for better days and looking forward to living life fully with those around us. Tell me … what are you dreaming about these days? Are they large and glamorous? Or quiet and gentle? I would love to hear from you! 

Love, blessings, and coffee,

Frannie

Embracing Pain // Coffee Series

Coffee With You Series

I haven’t got a lot to share lately, some days I feel like a washed up conch shell in the Caribbean, dry and bleached from the sun.

We’re having good days. Uriah is growing well. Yesterday, he tried to turn his head back and forth during tummy time; the only thing holding him up was the trach tube. He’s such a darling boy. And Dalton and I are well — it’s a hard thing being separated every week with hours between us. But we find ways to bond and eagerly await being home together soon.

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5 Ways to Deal with Anger in Your Marriage

Real life means we’re going to have conflict in our relationships. How we handle it, or don’t handle it, will determine if our marriage will grow or not. Join me for a coffee break and a quick read on how to deal with anger in your marriage. Follow this link or click on the picture below.

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