A preemie's stay in the NICU is often compared to riding a roller coaster. There are many ups and downs. There are good days and bad days during a preemie's stay in the NICU. The bad days are often referred to as "setbacks."
Most babies will experience at least a few setbacks. Setbacks can be anything from needing a higher level of oxygen for a day, to an infection, or a life threatening experience. Knowing this happens can help parents handle unexpected news.
While nothing can prepare a parent for a life threatening setback, preparing yourself for the realization that everyday isn't perfect will lessen the shock of sudden setbacks.
It is very likely your preemie will experience some sort of infection while in the NICU. This is due to the immature immune systems. Ask your doctor what type of infections are common. As will all medical conditions, some are worse than others. A simple eye infection can be treated with antibiotics and clear up in a few days, while NEC is a serious infection of the digestive system which may require surgery.
Your baby's doctor will help explain whenever something is wrong or when a setback has occurred. Learn what the situation is and get all the information you can to help make any decisions you may have to face. Always be prepared to ask the following questions: What is wrong? What is the cause? What are possible cures? Which is best to try first? What are the possible complications from our choices?
Remember your baby will usually bounce back from minor setbacks. Babies have good days and bad days the same as everyone else, it just appears a million-fold. Don't feel helpless when this happens to your baby. Get as much information as possible and love your baby unconditionally.
Also, remember it is not your baby's fault or a failure on the medical staff's part. Yelling at the NICU nurse will not help your baby recover sooner. As the person who is doing the most "hands on" help with your preemie, the NICU nurses are your preemie's second best friend. Unfortunately, the nurses also are the first ones you may encounter when learning of a setback. Be prepared knowing that setbacks happens so that you do not lash out at the first medical person you encounter. I witnessed a number of such encounters.
It helps to talk to people. Many NICU parents bond with other parents during their stay. This is a great opportunity to exchange information, hopes, and lessen your fears or grief. Only another parent knows what you are going through. There are also social workers and religious members on staff at hospitals to help you. It is okay to reach out to others, especially if you cannot be there everyday. Talking helps relieve fears and doubts.
There are a number of "parent forums" where you can ask questions or discuss NICU experiences with other preemie parents. Take advantage of forums, but always understand your doctor's information is the most current and most applicable to your preemie.
There are a number of online resources to help you during your NICU stay. http://www.lilyofmyheart.HelpfulLinks.html lists many links to refer you to sources with more information.
Author Resource:-> LilyofMyHeart.com tells the story of Micro-Preemie Lily. Our daughter Lily was born 15 weeks early and weighed 1 pound 11.5 ounces. Today she is a happy, healthy, and very vocal little girl. We are sharing our experience to help others.