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

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.

Read more

When Life Knocks the Saint Right Out of You // Coffee Series

Coffee With You Series

There’s a lot of feelings that happen when your life is turned upside down. For me, I’ve definitely become more acquainted with fear, anxiety, and anger from being in the NICU. There’s just something about not being in control of your child’s well-being that knocks the saint right out of you.

And guess what, that’s exactly what I needed.

Read more

How Will You Inspire Your Year?

What word will power you through 2017?

There’s something delicious about writing those first few words of a story. You can never quite tell where they will take you. – Miss Potter

There is something delicious about new things. New books, new houses, new clothes — they all carry an innate specialness. Even more importantly, new years are something to be look forward to.

It’s time for me to begin planning for the year ahead. Last year I really benefited from choosing a word and making it the theme of the year. 2016 was the year I chose delight.

This year, my theme for 2017 is the word season.

I’m in a time of life where I need to remember our lives are made up of seasons. In the last 135 days I’ve been home twice. My sweet 2 month old is in the NICU and some days I forget that real life is lived outside hospital walls. It’s important for me to remember that this is only a season of life; a short paragraph in our story.

The beautiful thing about seasons is that they are each unique and require different attitudes and actions from us. During spring we prepare gardens, clean homes, and refresh closets while summer days find us sweating in the sun; autumn is full of harvest and winter rest, lit fires, and warm blankets.

Our live’s seasons are also unique and require different attitudes and actions. I don’t want to waste these days dreaming of our homecoming or dreading the hours spent in the hospital. I want this season of life to count for something.

So, what does this mean practically?

I want to find ways to make the most of our time in the NICU.

I want to pursue my husband and marriage even while this season of life has us apart most of the week. I also want to find courage and creativity in seasoning our marriage with more romance and encouraging other women to do the same. (You know, spice things up?) 😉

I want to find creative ways to tell our story and God’s goodness throughout this entire season.

I want to invest in people.

I want to organize and declutter our home now so that when Uriah comes home I can focus (more easily) on him than on the stuff around me.

I want to get to know my Lord better during this season of whispered prayers, exhaustion, stress, and rough introduction to motherhood.

I want to sow now, so that later I may reap a good harvest. 

What’s your theme for 2017? Do you make resolutions or are you a word sort of person? Are you as surprised by February’s arrival as I am? 🙂 Share your thoughts below!

Love, blessings, and coffee,

Frannie