My Story: My baby is in NICU

Posted by E.J. Volkmar on May 14, 2015

I was so excited about the baby I was carrying and I was doing everything the doctor told me to do and then some. I was eating healthy, exercising, not smoking or drinking and I even cut down on salt and sugar. Things were going great; my baby had been growing as it should and it was positioned correctly. Its ultra sound showed no signs of trouble and my husband and I had picked out possible names.  We couldn’t ask for any better news, and then it happened. Our baby came early. We had a preemie baby and they whisked her off to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

They told us not to worry; that plenty of babies were born early and were taken to NICU, but I couldn’t help but worry.  I slept for quite a while after giving birth because it was exhausting. When I woke up I was all alone and my mind was churning with a million thoughts and feelings. If you have had a preemie and they are in NICU you might be experiencing the same feelings that I was.
 
One of the first feelings that I felt, being the mother of a preemie, was that of guilt. Somehow, I thought that it was my fault that my child was born prematurely. I thought that I did something wrong, maybe exercised too much, took some medicine I shouldn’t have, or perhaps I ate something that caused this. As a new mom, I felt like I somehow failed by not carrying my baby to full term.  What I learned was that it was important for me to listen to what my doctor was telling me. I didn’t cause my baby to be born prematurely; this was just something that happens.
 
Having a baby before it was time to and then having them whisked away to NICU was a traumatic experience for me and my family and resulted in me going into shock, although I appeared very calm. It caused feelings of detachment from my baby and made it difficult for me to bond with my newborn.

I found that these were common reactions to a traumatic experience and that it was just a way of protecting myself.  They told me that mothers become detached to protect themselves from the more painful experiences of shame and guilt.

To help prevent this, try to get involved as much as you can as soon as possible with taking care of your baby. It is also important if you are feeling like this to share your feelings with the social worker who will be assigned to you in the hospital. Many others have gone through the same thing.

I also felt helpless because I had no control over things and that makes it difficult for you to do what you are supposed to do for your baby. For example one mother, when her baby was born prematurely, did not produce milk right away and her child was losing weight every day. She felt helpless because she could not feed the baby and they had to give her child formula.

You may also feel helpless because you won’t have as much interaction with your baby while they are in NICU. To cope with this, if you can’t get directly involved make sure you advocate for your baby. Speaking up for your baby will help you feel less helpless. Don’t be afraid to do some of the things that the nurses may be doing for your baby like changing their diapers.
 
I also felt angry and I got to admit I was experiencing a little self-pity.  Anger usually stems from the self pity.  Self pity sets in when you start thinking, "Why did this happen to me and my baby?" It's usually because you had it planned in your mind how the birth would have gone. In addition to this, you might be sad that you can’t take the baby home.