Nutrition & Exercise
This is much easier to say than to actually do. Many parents feel that they must be at their baby’s bedside every hour of every day. Try to remember that you need to remain healthy too and decreased sleep, exercise, nutrition, and relaxation will only weaken your immune system making you susceptible to colds and infections. Your baby needs healthy parents, if you’re sick you can’t visit him or her! Remember, the doctors and nurses who are caring for your baby are the best babysitters you could ask for and your baby is in an environment that is constantly and closely monitored. It is ok to take care of yourself and your relationship with your partner or spouse.
Good nutrition is essential both for you and your baby! If you are pumping, you need increased fluids and calories to make sure your baby gets the nutrition he/she needs.
Exercise is important, but can seem daunting. The good news is it doesn't have to be an hour spent at the gym. Even if this just consists of walking around the hospital, indoors or out, for 15 or 20 minutes. Try this a couple times a week to get your endorphins going!
This experience is very traumatic and there is a grieving period most parents go through at the beginning. Being able to mourn the loss of a “perfect” pregnancy and storybook delivery in a healthy way is essential. If you feel a strain on your marriage or relationship with the baby’s father consider couples counseling. The stress of having a medically fragile baby in the NICU is immense and can be managed much easier if the parents are a united front.
If you feel extremely depressed consider getting a referral to a psychiatrist, preferably one who specializes in Women’s Mental Health. Preemie mom, Babs Haller shares her experience with PTSD following her traumatic birth experience. She notes how important it is to seek help from a counselor who understands Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Read Babs' article here.
A great resource for information about PTSD and treatment options is www.healmyptsd.com
Writing in some way, maybe through personal journaling or a prayer journal. Or if you enjoy blogging - this can be a great ways to keep family and friends informed about your babies without having to always send out mass emails. Blogger, CarePages,CaringBridge, and WordPress are the more popular and user friendly blog hosting sites.
Kasey Matthews, preemie mom and author of the book "Preemie" (a highly recommended book for any preemie parent) writes: "At some point we do have to sit down and reflect upon our thoughts, feelings, and emotions, because if we don’t, they just breed and fester way down deep in the dark recesses where we’ve tucked them away. And by bringing our buried fears, hopes, dreams, disappointments and truths to the light, we are in fact helping our child to heal and grow as well. A healthy, whole parent is one of the greatest gifts we can offer to our children."
Read Kasey's article where she shares tips for getting your started.
Depression, PTSD & Counseling
Writing to Heal
TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF
It can be helpful to connect with a parent who has been in your shoes. We are happy to connect you with a seasoned and trained preemie parent who can offer support. Peer counseling has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression in parents who have a critically ill child in the NICU.
Be sure to schedule and go to your follow up appointments with your OB or other specialists who may need to oversee your recovery from your pregnancy and delivery. Your body has been through so much hormonally and physically. There may even be lasting issues that need to be monitored post delivery. Skipping appointments can have a detrimental effect.