14 Things You Will Need in the NICU
I dreaded the thought of my babies needing to visit the NICU. It’s not the land of the safe and healthy, ya feel me? If they aren’t in the NICU then they are at home, where I am parenting from the driver’s seat. No one gets to tell me when I can hold, feed, or change my babies. If I want to swaddle them, no one is hovering over my shoulder, giving me 101 pointers on how to do so. If I’m not in the NICU, there are no cords to maneuver around or alarming monitors for every spit-up around the clock. However, time and circumstance has placed me here: living in the NICU.
Today marks day 33 for us, reference my jagged tally marks etched into the cement wall. I have memorized the cafeteria’s menu, I can recognize each nurse by their shoes as they walk past our room’s curtain divider and I have discovered the perfect use of a preemie diaper is actually a water bottle cozy. Staying here feels similar to many days spent in a casino, replacing the stench of stale smoke for a sterile alcohol aroma. Likewise, you are completely separated from the outside world. There is no way to tell if it’s dark/light or warm/cold outside. The days morph together, only distinguishable by the date written on our whiteboard. Here, the staff is your only real source for social interaction, which can feel isolating to an extrovert, yet the consistent presence of nurses in and out of your small space can be draining for an introvert.
In 25 days we have watched families come and go. They enter as we did, mainly scared. Moms start out walking the slow, post-delivery shuffle and with time they walk out the door, upright and smiling. Someday, and I look forward to it, we will also sport that smile. Witnessing the full cycle from afar, entrance to exit, or I should say, admittance to discharge, I have slowly acquired a new view.
Although I dreaded the thought of my babies being in the NICU, a deeper understanding has widened my perspective. This experience, trying as it may be, has proven itself valuable. Within the Salem Hospital, I have found the staff to be all the above: informative, helpful, attentive, supportive, kind, knowledgeable and compassionate. The past 33 days may have been far from relaxed or easy, but Cody and I were never alone in facing any of the complications the girls have had. It turns out in all the ways we never wanted to be here, they didn’t want us here either. Our goals match up in wanting the girls to leave and leave strong. Also, I may add, the tools and procedures available here are the sole reason many babies are able to live, whom would not have survived in the past, mine included.
I have journeyed from the preconception of the NICU being a trap we needed to avoid and escape, to the realization that we are blessed to have a team of excellent professionals start us off parenting preemies confidently and on solid footing.
Are you wondering how to help a friend or family member in the NICU? If I was to compile a list of must have items for the next parents joining this elite club it would include:
- Non-scented, baby-friendly, hospital-approved lotion, because the constant hand washing and sanitizer use will leave your knuckles raw after week one.
- Fingernail clippers, because as it turns out, your fingernails don’t need sunshine to keep growing and no one wants to accidentally claw their newborn.
- A washcloth since showers come few and far between.
- Stamps and envelopes, especially for the mamas with little ones back home they would like to write to.
- A journal for moms who want to log when they last pumped to keep track of milk production and/or which boob was last breastfed on.
- Wide, slip on shoes because no one tells you that after having twins your feet will swell up to the point at which you wonder if they will get stretchmarks.
- Lularoe leggings, the ones with a higher waste, cute print and comfy light weight material, size 5. (I’m hoping my husband reads this and gets the hint)
- A cardigan, because they frown upon topless trips to the bathroom.
- Tape, because it’s encouraging to hang up drawings from your other children, and sweet notes from friends.
- Honey, because if you love it in your tea, you won’t find it on the menu.
- Milk supply boosters such as Fennel oil for the bottoms of your feet, Mothers Milk tea, Lactation cookies, instant oatmeal, and a discreetly packaged dark beer (anything for the babies right?)
- Disposable breast pads, because you didn’t plan to be here that long and didn’t pack enough.
- Thin menstrual pads since the hospital provided pads are as thick and comfortable as insulation in your undies.
- Lattes-lots of lattes!
Below is a link to another helpful article for additional insights!