Ten Things I Learned While In The NICU
There is no guide to life in the NICU. Well maybe there is, but I haven’t googled one. And now that I think about it, I kind of wished I would have looked it up. Could have saved me from many embarrassing moments. But alas, I did not. I learned the NICU life the hard way.
- If your baby is staying in a hospital with an open bay NICU, you’re going to have curtains that you can pull to create a more “private space” for you and your baby to hang out and bond. Just because you pull the curtain doesn’t mean you’re suddenly in a sound-proof environment. Do not discuss the nursing staff that is tending to your little one, especially the nurse you had the previous day who you despised because she was rude. It won’t make her any nicer. Do not discuss personal matters, such as your cracked sore nipples, or how your neck smells like baby spit up. And finally, do not watch Impractical Jokers on YouTube and laugh so hard that you cry and make the nurses come and try to console you because they assume the stress of the NICU life has finally hit.
- When the nurse asks you how often you’re “nuzzling” your baby, do not say that you nuzzle him in the morning and your husband nuzzles him at night. Nuzzling means breastfeeding, and as capable as you may find your husband, it’s very unlikely that he’ll be able to breastfeed your kiddo.
- If your NICU is like the one my son is in, they have a specific tone that goes off to inform the staff that a baby destined for the NICU has been delivered. The tones vary depending on the hospital. Ours sounds like a telephone ringing. For weeks I heard it go off and stewed over the fact that no one was answering it. Do not get so annoyed that you ask the staff why they never answer their stinking phones.
- Do not bring your nurse pumped breast milk and then apologize for not having also brought her cookies.
- In an open bay NICU, you usually have Windows that allow you to see into neighboring bays. Keep this in mind when you decide to rip your shirt and bra off to pump. Once again, do not let the closed curtain fool you. Forget this and you’ll end up standing naked from the waist up making awkward eye contact with your son’s neonatologist and his nine interns.
- If your child needs to be in an isolette/incubator for a time, keep in mind that this is a closed space. Do not open his isolette doors after several hours of him being in there and immediately stick your face inside to say hello. Babies are human too, guys, and there is nothing that smells worse than a baby toot. Except maybe an isolette filled with baby toots that have been trapped for hours on end.
- Depending on how long your baby stays in the NICU, you’ll end up growing attached to the other babies around you. Do not give these babies nicknames based on their looks. Do not try and cuddle these babies. And for heavens sakes do not offer to breastfeed them when they’re crying because they’re hungry.
- There are going to be days when you’re super bored holding your sleeping baby for several hours. Do not eavesdrop on neighboring conversations about other babies and their families. Well, I say that, but what I mean is do not make eye contact as you eavesdrop on conversations about other babies and their families.
- You’re going to start feeling pretty lonely, having only your infant to talk to. And believe me, as adorable as their grunts and groans are, they aren’t the best at holding a conversation. Make friends with the moms and dads around you. But, keep in mind that you can’t discuss any of the information you learned while eavesdropping. Starting a conversation off with, “So how’s that clogged milk duct doing?” is not a great idea. Karen told her lactation consultant about that milk duct, not you.
- And lastly, but certainly not least. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in the NICU, it is not okay to start silencing the monitors. I know you realize that the monitor is only beeping because your kid’s lead lost its adhesive and isn’t sticking to his body anymore. I know you can see his chest rising and falling, clearly indicating that your kiddo is breathing, but do not hit that silencing button. I don’t care that the dinging noise is horrid and is causing your ears to bleed and making all the other babies cry. It’s not your job. Yes, I know your nurse is busy bottle feeding another baby and won’t be there to silence your alarm for ages, but don’t you dare touch it. And don’t be dismayed. Soon you’ll learn to tune out all the NICU noises just as you learned to tune out your spouse and that animal shelter commercial with Sarah McLachlan’s, In the Arms of an Angel.
Now that I think about it, maybe I shouldn’t be giving any NICU advice. But allow me to try and sum up anyways. To survive the NICU just show up, love on your kid, pray unceasingly, and don’t forget not to take the NICU life so seriously. Your baby may not be in your body anymore, but they still react to your stress level. Laugh a little. Heck laugh a lot. Time flies when you’re having fun and before you know it you’ll be going home!