You've spent the past 8 (or even 7) months with a little bundle growing inside you and now you have the opportunity to welcome them early. You're introduced to the loud and stressful world of the neonatal intensive care unit. The NICU is a world no parent is prepared to enter; it's full of ups, downs, highs, lows and some of the scariest moments (e.g. your baby's heart monitor drops or their oxygen tube comes out and they turn blue). This will be one of the most stressful moments of your life, but after baby comes home, it will feel like a distant memory.
For now, you need to be strong, keep it together and make sure you will be the best parent you can to your baby. The baby needs you, the nurses need you to be active, and you need to be able to function when you potentially bring a premature infant home. Here are some tips to help you get through the stress and grief so you can function in the best way you possibly can.
Take up a new craft hobby. If you're living in the Ronald McDonald House (or NICU room) while your baby is transferred out of the area or out of state to a specialty hospital, you will find there are times you are alone with baby sleeping. This is a good time to take up a craft that's easy to carry around- knitting, crocheting or even loom knitting are all therapeutic. You could get material and make jewelry, hats, scarves or anything else. Just sitting in baby's room watching them sleep while crafting can help you feel a bit better.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="1100"] Via: medicalnewstoday.com[/caption]
Try some meditation or yoga (if your doctor approves it)- the stretching in a lot of yoga poses helps with relaxation, and meditation is all about relaxing. It is important to get a doctor to approve any type of workout, even if it is just stretching. Traditional meditation and mindfulness meditation help bring your mind back to what you're doing at the moment and both promote deep breathing- which helps relax your body and your mind.
Many companies make teas especially for stress relief- make sure it's safe to drink if you're breastfeeding, but some brands make tea formulated to promote relaxation. Of course, you can also relax with just a simple cup of hot peppermint tea. Decaffeinated hot herbal teas are a good way to wind down for the night before going to bed.
Remember that if you try a special tea or a yoga regimen, make sure you speak with your doctor first. Yoga is one of the easiest types of exercises, but if you have just had a baby it can still cause problems- especially with a C-section. Some teas have herbs that can transfer to the baby and cause issues. Peppermint is a safe, relaxing tea but in small doses. Keep in mind that there are special blends that can make your baby sick.
Stock up on interesting books and magazines. There are a few books that should always be in any NICU mom's library, but it doesn't have to be the only type of book you read, just make sure you're stocked up on books and magazines that interest you- it could be a long wait until you go back home.
Attend a few of the NICU parents nights and dinners. Most hospitals will have a few events to offer (some have weekly meetings) for parents to sit down or do crafts and meet other NICU moms and dads. Those events can be very helpful- meeting others who are going through the same as you at the same time can be a good thing when it comes to support.