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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Handling emotions in the NICU

Emotionally, life in the NICU is tough. Watching your baby in an incubator, with tubes stuck into them, monitors onto them, handled largely by nurses, fed by syringe dripping via a tube into the stomach only being able to talk and touch through the bay doors in the incubator is difficult. Add to this the often conflicting, intensely complex medical information being provided by many different sources, and its an emotionally charged environment. We wanted to be with our baby as much as possible. To check every little detail which was often overlooked (water in his nasal tube delivering oxygen is probably the most common one we experienced, that we were constantly prompting the nurses to look into) we felt like we should be there all the time, which also takes a toll. Once I came from work to the NICU, during the time our son was diagnosed with a list of issues and my wife was a tightly wound coil of stress. I packed her in a taxi to the nearest Day Spa for a massage and some pampering, which was probably amongst the best money we’ve ever spent.

Emotionally, you have to deal with guilt, fear, confusion, anger, stress, and to face the fact you have very little control or power over what happens is very difficult. But there is also pride, joy, and happiness in some quantities as well. The feeling when our son was extubated, for example, or first breastfeed at 33 weeks, was quite something! Its definitely a rollercoaster of emotions.

My advice is to focus on the positives. Sometimes it feels like its all negatives, with the doctors talking about the various conditions your baby faces, the complications, the problems, but very little about the positives. If the situation has any positives, focus on those.

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