It’s simply a fact that premature birth turns a family’s world upside down and tests the limits of their resilience. Parents of preemies face challenges that most people can’t even imagine.
So it’s only natural that your baby’s early arrival can leave you feeling stressed out and frightened. Some of your fear may fade as you learn about and participate in your preemie’s care, but you’ll likely experience a range of emotions throughout the prematurity journey.
Here are four tips that can help you cope:
Remember that your preemie is exactly where he or she needs to be right now. Try to draw strength from that fact. The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is staffed by specially trained healthcare professionals who understand the special needs of premature babies.
As overwhelming as the sights, sounds, and rhythm of the NICU can be, there are still many opportunities for bonding. If you are unable to hold your baby, you can read and sing, place an object infused with your scent in your baby’s isolette, or participate in routine care as allowed by your NICU. Even holding your baby’s hand can be reassuring for both of you.
Don’t blame yourself for your baby’s premature birth! Many parents ask themselves if they are somehow to blame, but it’s a question that usually has no satisfying answer. If you don’t already know why your preemie came early, chances are that you will never know. Accept that your family’s reality happened to involve premature birth and try to move forward.
Having an infant in the NICU is exhausting! Being there for your preemie means taking care of yourself, too. Eat and sleep. Don’t sweat the small stuff at home. Accept any and all offers of help. Remember, people wouldn’t offer if they didn’t want to lighten your load! And if you’re feeling depressed, talk to a professional. Anxiety, depression, postpartum depression, and even PTSD are relatively common among parents coping with premature birth.
As isolating as premature birth can be, try to remember that you are not alone! Many parents have gone through this and you will come out stronger on the other side just as they did.