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,