The NICU can be a scary and overwhelming place. I remember going up to the NICU only a few hours after my C-section so I could see my babies as soon as possible. It will be hard to erase the memory of the frequent 3 minute hand washes, the smell of the soap, and the sounds of the monitors and machines from my mind.
My biggest frustration when our twin boys were in the NICU was not the fact that I could not take my babies home right away or nurse, it was the fact that I wanted someone to tell me what I could do. The only instructions that I received from the NICU nurses in helping to care for my babies was to 1.) pump milk and to 2.) recover from my surgery.
Pumping milk was the stressful because no matter how determined I was, I could not will my milk supply to come in. It was going to take a few days, like it did with the birth of my oldest son, but this time I was more aware of how long it took because I could actually see what was coming out. I pumped every three hours for almost 5 days before my milk finally came in.
Pumping was frustrating because I knew that eventually my efforts would be fruitful, but I couldn’t make any guarantee of when. During those five milk-less days, I felt obligated to give the nurses an update on my progress and would shamefully give them ¼ teaspoons worth of colostrum in a syringe. Thankfully it did get better, and by the time the boys were discharged two weeks after they were born, I was sent home with a cooler full of frozen milk.
The best advice that any nurse gave me was to go home and rest after I was discharged four days after they were born. It seemed to go against everything I felt like I should be doing, but it really was the best advice. When we were in the NICU, the things that we could do were limited to diaper changes, temperature taking, limited holding/kangaroo care, and eventually bottle feeds. But these events only happened every 3 hours, so there was a lot of down time in the hospital where there wasn’t anything I could do except for sit in the room.
I had two babies that were being well cared for in the NICU, and oldest baby who had been without his momma for over a month. My husband and I decided that we would go over for a few hours each day to be with the babies, unless we needed to stay longer. I knew that in the long run this would be much better for our whole family and the rest I got while I was home helped me recover so that I was ready to care for the boys when they came home.
For those of you with NICU experiences, how did you deal with it? What were your frustrations and what were you thankful for?