A premmie mum's top 5 tips for coping in NICU / SCN
Since launching our Premmie Milestone Cards, we have been fortunate enough to connect with many parents of premature babies, all on the same journey, hoping for the same things for their bub - that they overcome all the adversity they're faced with to become healthy and happy little cherubs. One of our very first customers has been a huge advocate for awareness of premature babies, and a huge supporter of our mission to help parents and families of premature babies celebrate their beautiful bubs milestones.
Our dear friend and premmie super-mum Cherie Canning shares with us her top 5 tips for coping in the NICU / SCN.
Baby: Chloe Canning
Mum and Dad: Cherie and Andy Canning
Born at: 25 weeks + 4 days
Baby's birth weight: 730 grams
Baby's age now (actual): 12 weeks + 1 day
Baby's age now (corrected): 37 weeks + 5 days
Age baby went home: 81 days or 37 weeks +1 day
Hospital: Mater Mothers Brisbane
Total time in hospital: 81 days
Time in NICU: 2 months to the day!
Time in SCN: 3 weeks
CHERIE AND ANDY'S TOP 5 TIPS FOR COPING IN THE NICU / SCN
1. Communicate how you feel and share your journey
Everyone copes differently but one thing is universal, bottling up emotions never ends well! It’s a huge emotional roller-coaster and it so important for your sanity to communicate your feelings, no matter what they are!
We kept a journal where we updated any medical changes and milestones for Chloe and how we were feeling each day.
We also spoke to the counsellor in the hospital (a free service) when things got too much. It was really helpful!
We also decided to share our journey in a few ways.
We had a daily text message we sent to family and close friends explaining what was happening each day.
We both share via social media with photos on a dedicated Instagram for our daughter Chloe @chloecanning16, Facebook posts and I later started a Facebook page/blog @premmiemum
We both found sharing the story of our daughter’s premmie journey bought us so much support from a wider group of friends and community. It gave us a lot of hope and encouragement.
2. Meet other parents and make friends with the nurses and doctors
No matter how wonderful your friends and family are, unless they have had a child in NICU/SCN they will never truly understand what you are going through. Other parents understand the emotions, the medical lingo, the guilt of not being there 24/7, the fear of getting a call from the hospital at night etc. They will be your friends when you leave and will always be a part of your journey. I am truly grateful for some of the wonderful friends I have made in the NICU.
Get to know the nurses and doctors too. They are all incredible humans! I got through the days by talking to them all for hours! We would have a laugh and chat on the quiet, easier days but most importantly, I went to them for advice, guidance and support. I asked so many questions!! They helped me fully understand what was happening and helped you realise the “reality” of the situation. They know the perfect balance of telling you the harsh truth and not giving you false hope but also being positive. They don’t sugar coat anything, which is what you need.
One piece of advice I was given is find a point of truth when it comes to listening to advice. Every nurse and doctor may have different opinions and varied experiences, it can be overwhelming when you get lots of advice especially if some is conflicting. Find the doctor and a few nurses you connect with and you feel you trust the most. If you have anything you need clarity on, go to these people as your point of truth.
3. Take photos and celebrate the milestones
Whilst the time spent in NICU/SCN may feel like a life time, in time, it will be a memory so make sure you record it! Taking daily photos will help you see your babies progress!
We set up an Instagram and also used an app called “1 second a day” to record each month which gives you a 1 second a day video! Such a great memory for when you get home and years down the track to show your baby!
The milestones in NICY/SCN are unique to “normal” parenting. We bought a pack of Premmie Milestone Cards and these were one of my favourite things in the NICU / SCN experience.
It gave me clear goals and milestones to look forward to . Each time Chloe achieved one, I felt an enormous sense of pride and excitement and it helped me remain very positive and focused on moving forward!
Some milestones can take a long time to achieve, I really feel that having small and large goals were very important to keep you moving forward!
4. Get involved and get to know your baby
Be sure not to sit back - get involved where you can in your babies care. Be present for the “cares”. Get to know their habits and the best way to look after them and bond with them. Be there for kangaroo care every day if possible, it is a great bonding moment for you and your baby. It’s the one thing both parents can do, and research shows how much it helps your child’s development. For me, I would hold my baby 2-5 hours a day and when that happened, every worry seemed to disappear.
5. Take each day as it comes
We were told very early on that the NICU journey would be very much 2 steps forward, 1 step back. There is no use thinking weeks and months ahead. Instead be present in each moment and take every moment as it comes. Do not worry about things that MAY happen or you will go insane. Deal with each hurdle as it arrives. One step and one day at a time!
Read more about Cherie, Andy and Chloe's journey on Cherie's Blog: Chloe's Mum - the world through the eyes of a Premmie Mum.