If you're pregnant, you've probably pictured yourself heading home from the hospital, sweet new babe and balloon in tow. So a curveball—like an unexpected (or even expected) stay in the NICU—is enough to shake even the toughest of mamas. Whether it's a preterm birth or health issue that's keeping your little in the hospital longer, know that there's a community of NICU moms who've been in your shoes (and want to give you a hug). We enlisted some of their best advice for new moms going through this tough time.
Celebrate the small victories
'There will be days where you are bursting at the seams with joy at your baby's latest milestone (breathing unassisted! Breastfeeding without an oxygen or heart rate dip!) and days where you are literally worried they may die, but can't even get your lips to form that question without bursting into tears. It's a very normal part of this journey, I've learned.' - Kelly O.
Don’t fault yourself
'After giving birth early I remember thinking I was to blame. In reality, there’s nothing I could have done to prevent that from happening. It’s so easy to blame ourselves, but it’s not healthy to do nor will it change the circumstances.' - Tanisia M.
Step away from the hospital
'It is easy to feel guilty about leaving your little one, but my husband and I went on a much-needed date a week into our daughter's stay in the NICU and it helped both of us cope better with the challenges in front of us. They are in incredible hands at the NICU! - Amanda G.
'Too often people say 'let me know if you need anything!' And we reply, 'oh, we're fine,' when in reality, we're not fine. So put people to work. When people offer, take the help — and be specific with what you need help with. Whether you need help with cleaning your house or you need someone to run to the store to get more oatmeal for lactation cookies, take the help. Give people specific ways that they can show up and help you.' - Mia F.
Arm yourself with information
'You may be asked to sign consents for tests and interventions you do not understand. Call your pediatrician or ask for outside neonatologists or other doctors to consult with you and explain what is happening. Don’t be afraid to advocate for your baby. Having my baby in the NICU was the first time I felt emboldened to ask all of my questions and challenge their course of treatment.' - Alena G.
Take care of yourself
'Practice some form of self-care. Get a manicure or pedicure, read a book, journal, or watch TV every day, even if it’s for 15-20 minutes. Your mind will thank you.' - Samary A.
Count the positives
'Practice daily gratitude. There is always something to be grateful for. Write down one 'win' you had today — it’s so easy to forget the awesome things we do.' - Tracy M.