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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Getting Ready to Leave the NICU

When it was the end of our time in the NICU I know we felt a lot of different emotions. Joy that the 3 months of having every day in the NICU was coming to an end, and that our baby was well enough to go home. Stress and nerves that perhaps we weren't prepared.

In our NICU, the nurses did a lot of the work, especially initially. Our baby was very small, very delicate, and there were long periods of time we weren't allowed to do kangaroo care, so of course we weren't able to feed him (the nurses help the tube which went to his stomach), change him, give medicines etc. So a lot of it was what I call "parenting by proxy". We would watch the nurses change nappies, clean, sometimes sooth, and perform other normal parental functions. Its a strange feeling, often I felt like I wasn't really needed that much. I tried to channel my desire to actually do something into keeping up with the medical details of our sons care, doing kangaroo care, playing music for him, talking with him etc.

So when the time came that we were starting to think about discharge, suddenly we were mixing medicines, giving medicines, feeding, changing, bathing and pretty much all the things the nurses were doing previously. It took a bit of practice, and overcoming some nerves at first but I came to enjoy those moments.

Theres no way of avoiding it though, its a strange feeling one day to have your baby in a room with limited visitors, everyone washing hands 10 times a day, a very strictly controlled environment to them handing your baby over and saying "time to go home now". Theres also the rush to get everything. As we were in hospital much earlier than anticipated, we hadn't done any shopping. So we had to rush around (between feeding times) and get a stroller, cot, clothes, linen, and all the other things a baby needs at home.

In summary, getting to go home with your baby is a strange mix of excitement, joy, nerves, fear and stress. For us it was an amazing feeling having our little baby finally home with us and not feeling like the hospital was our second home.

If I had to get some tips they would be:
  • Do as much as possible for your baby while still in the NICU (once you are allowed). With the nurses and doctors to guide and monitor we found it easier to build confidence, get advice etc.
  • Try to take time to buy the things you need, we rushed around a lot and ended up missing some things, paying too much for others. Maybe they can give the baby tube feedings to give a few more hours for baby shopping.
  • Ask questions. Lots of questions. I was always asking the nurses if the way I was givign the medicine was right, or if there was another way, or a better way, or tricks they had for swaddling etc.
  • Get clear lists of requirements for your baby. For example, the medicines, the times they have to be given, udner what conditions (30 mins before a feeding etc).
  • Get the checkups written out for you, so you have a clear list of dates to adhere to for followup with the pediatrician and any specialists.
  • Expect a mixture of emotions and don't be too hard on yourselves.