I was going to title this post “A day in the Life of a NICU Parent,” however an important thing we’ve learned about being a parent in general, NICU or not, is that the same thing doesn’t work for everyone. It’s important to understand that, respect it, and not to judge others or yourself. So instead of generalizing what we share – we’re simply sharing what works for us. We’ve also been asked about what our day and visiting schedule is like by quite a few people. Hopefully this post will answer those questions and provide insight on why August isn’t having visitors in the NICU (another common question we and our family have been answering.)
A quick background for anyone joining the party now – Matt and I welcomed our son August when I was just 26 weeks pregnant and he’ll required hospitalization until around his original due date in March. Matt and I are people who value balancing family and working hard. I am pumping regularly to provide August breast milk now, and be able to continue to do so when he comes home.
Our first few weeks in the NICU, as warned, were an intense roller coaster. At that time we were both off work and spending everyday at August’s bedside, or holding him, and meeting with the Doctors. Since the new year he’s been more stable and our weekdays have become as routine has being a new parent can get. As August grows and can begin feeding by mouth I’m sure our days will change, but a look at it now:
12 AM – first official event of the day: Pump No. 1
5 AM – Wake-up call. I take care of Pump No. 2 and Matt get’s himself ready for work.
6 AM – Matt get’s to work. He’s getting in a full day and visiting August by working from 6am – 3pm.
7 AM – I head to work. I’ve decided to go back part time because it was important to me not be out of work for six months. When August comes home this will stop, and I’ll take a traditional twelve week maternity leave. A quick tip if any other parents are searching for suggestions: I have built into my morning schedule enough time to SIT and eat breakfast and drink coffee. If I didn’t have that time built it, it wouldn’t happen. And being a pumping mom, food and coffee are non-negotiable.
8 AM – I call and check in at the NICU. We can call whenever we want, but I know when the nurses are busy, and this time works well. I find out who his nurse is that day and leave notes with her that I want the Doctors to take into consideration during rounds. I’ve found this an effective way to advocate for August when I’m not at the hospital in the mornings. Also – Pump No. 3 completed.
11 AM – Pump No. 4 and if I multitask and also eat lunch during those 20 minutes I get to see August sooner.
12 PM – Meg heads to the hospital. We’ve been trying to coordinate rides so that we just have one car at MGH. (So if you are invited to visit, a well timed ride is a HUGE help.) August is usually all snuggled up when I arrive, I get the update from his nurse and usually the Doctor as well.
2 PM – Pump No. 5 at the hospital. I need to get this in on time, so that I can clean my pump parts, use the restroom, and be ready to change his diaper and get him up at 2:45.
3 PM – I hold August from 3-6pm skin to skin. Best part of my day!
4 PM – Matt arrives at the hospital to spend time while I’m holding the little guy.
6 PM – Time to tuck August in for the night. This has become a daily ritual. I lay him down after skin to skin and he’s usually wide awake! So we take the opportunity to interact with him with the pacifier and just talk with him and enjoy him looking around, being so attentive. Then we swaddle him up and get him comfy for the night.
6:30 PM – Pump No. 6 at the hospital.
7 – 7:30 PM – Matt and I make our way home and we usually have something quick to heat up for dinner thanks to so many generous friends, family, and people we don’t even know! (Dad’s office rocks!)
9 PM – Pump No. 7 then bedtime by 10. Then I’m up at midnight to start all over again.
Yes, by Thursday it feels like groundhog day and we’re looking forward to the weekend when we can slow down, recover, and gear up for another busy week. And remember, this is an average day. Sometimes August has additional tests and/or procedures and we change when we hold him to accommodate, and also make arrangements to be at the hospital for a different time. If we can’t assist during a procedure I like to be there to comfort him afterwards. And if you didn’t notice – I’ll point it out: pump, skin to skin, pump again. Still not obvious? I spend the majority of my hospital time topless, part of the reason we have very few visitors. The NICU also isn’t a great place to visit…. it is still an intensive care unit and if you’ve never been in one before, it’s really scary and though we’re used to the alarms, Matt and I can be very stressed at times. We’ve decided that it will be better for everyone to wait for August to be stronger to meet people, we have all the time in the world.