If you're like most parents of a premature baby, you may be experiencing a wide range of emotions. Here are some tips to help you on this journey.
You may first feel shock and ask questions such as, "Why did this happen? What could I have done to prevent it?" At some point, you may also feel anger, guilt, and depression.
There may be times you want to blame everyone—your spouse, the doctors, the world, and ultimately yourself. You may feel, "If I had only done this...or hadn't done that."
You might also feel disappointed. In a maternity ward, surrounded by new moms and their babies, you may feel that you missed the "perfect" birth experience and immediate joy of motherhood that you envisioned while you were pregnant.
And, above all, you probably feel fear and anxiety. "Will my baby be okay?"
Some words of advice: Don't blame yourself for your baby's prematurity. Feelings of guilt and failure can interfere with your relationship with your baby.
Try to remember, all of these feelings are completely normal. They may change on a day-to-day basis, or come in waves that make you feel helpless and out of control. They are natural reactions.
Talking with your NICU doctor and nurses can help you understand some of the reasons for your baby's premature birth.
Let's look now at some things you can do to help you stay motivated and positive.
Recognize that your feelings may be intensified by postpartum depression, which may affect new mothers.
Common postpartum feelings are tension, anxiety, and sadness. These emotions are thought to be caused by sudden hormonal changes after delivery. The fact that your baby was premature in no way changes this postpartum chemistry. In fact, the premature birth of your baby makes you all the more vulnerable. Be patient with yourself and realize what you're experiencing is, in fact, very normal.
Get all the rest you possibly can and eat well.
Your body has just been through the exhausting experience of giving birth. Not getting enough rest, or not eating properly, will make it harder to regain the strength you will need to care for yourself and your baby. In addition, if you are experiencing depression, physical fatigue may also compound these feelings.
Talk to your spouse, family, doctors, nurses, and friends. Keep communication open with each other and people who can give you comfort and strength.
Accept help from friends.
Take friends or relatives up on their offers to care for your other children, clean your house, drive you to the hospital, or run errands for you. Save your energy for visiting your baby.
Look at your baby's picture, when you can't be with her.
Taking pictures of your baby will help you feel closer to your baby, as well as help you recognize your baby's progress—which is sometimes hard to do until you actually see it in a photo. Many hospitals provide photographs for families to share with their loved ones. You may want to consider creating a website for posting pictures and updating friends and family on your baby's progress. These methods of tracking your baby's recovery can help you navigate the difficult road you are on.
Join a support group.
Sharing your thoughts and feelings with others who have been, or currently are, in your situation is often a great form of comfort and stress release. It's also a great place to learn from and be motivated by others who have been through it.