Expecting the Unexpected – A Stay in the NICU

When you are preparing to have a baby, you may have some surprises. For about 1 of every 10 pregnancies, the surprise is an early arrival of the baby. On November 17, we recognize World Prematurity Day to bring attention to the research, community support and medical teams that work together to give every baby a chance at life.

The team at St. Elizabeth Healthcare Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) are proud to fulfill their calling of caring for our smallest patients.

Tracy Burch, NICU Nurse Manager at St. Elizabeth Healthcare in Edgewood Kentucky believes “Our job as a care team is to not only get the baby back home as quickly as possible but to prepare parents to learn how to care for their babies when they are ready to go home.”

Tips for Managing a NICU Stay
When your baby is born early, it is usually unexpected and almost always overwhelming. The baby is so small or is in an incubator, and the noises in the NICU can be so overpowering.

Trust your instincts – parents are the one constant in a premature baby’s life. There is an entire care team of doctors, nurses and nurse practitioner that may change from day to day, but the parents are there every day. If you think your baby is breathing or eating differently, or your baby’s color has changed slightly, tell your care team. Parent’s instincts usually sense the first subtle signs of health changes.

Get involved in the daily care of your baby – use your time in the NICU to learn how to care for your baby. The more involved you are in the care for your child in the NICU the more comfortable you will be caring for them at home. Typically, the more interaction and care your baby receives from you in the NICU the quicker they are ready to go home.

Ask for help – having a baby in the NICU is a challenge for any family, especially if you have other children at home. Reach out to your support system and ask for help. Have friends or family make dinners and have them ready for you at home or they can bring a warm meal to share in the family waiting area. Since family and friends won’t be able to stop in and visit like they would if the baby was home, they can provide support through babysitting, cooking, or providing financial support.

Take care of yourself too – it is expected for you to grieve and feel sad that your birth experience wasn’t exactly as you imagined it. Take the time to yourself to experience those feelings. You should also pamper yourself by shopping or get a manicure. Parents need to decompress and find the energy it takes to care for a premature baby and the kids that may be at home. Having a baby in the NICU is not normal so there is no normal way to handle it. Don’t worry what other people think – you need to have the energy to deal with everything that is happening around you.

Tracy Burch also feels it is important to remember, “A special person is taking care of your baby when you aren’t there. The people that choose to care for NICU babies have a calling – a passion for caring for special babies. The team in the NICU is doing everything they can do to get your baby home to you.”