The Honest Confessions of Transitioning from NICU to Home by NICU Mum
In honor of #NICUawarenessweek, we asked NICU Mum Vicki Cockerill to come and write a guest piece for us. Here is her story...
When my eldest son was admitted to the Neo Natal Intensive Care Unit back in Sept 2014, for 9 days I longed to hear the words;
"You're going home".
Every day on the consultant's rounds we stand outside pleading with the universe that we would be discharged. Finally, on the evening of day 8 we got the news that we were bringing him home the next day. Suddenly, the emotions of relief, fear, happiness and everything else thrown in for good measure washed over me.
I looked around and despite everything being ready for months, I fussed about with it making sure it was right. I didn't dare tell too many people in case we jinxed it and deep down I still didn't believe we would actually be bringing him home. But, we did.
Then once the adrenaline and emotion of loading up your baby in the car and getting them through the front door ebbs away, it hits you like a lorry. The worry. The responsibility.
The fear they have got it wrong you shouldn't be here, you should be back where they can be monitored. He surely needs medication?
The machines ring in your ears as you close your eyes. You can still smell the disinfectant and hand sanitiser from the ward. You are home but you are still very much on that NICU Ward.
A part of you will always be on that ward.
There is a common misconception that just because your home, things can begin again. It's the best outcome because you're finally home but NICU doesn't end on discharge.
It stays with you.
So, how do you transition from living on the NICU ward to home?
Here are my top 5 tips to transition from NICU to home;
1. Give yourself time, it seems so surreal, so out of your comfort that you have your baby in your own house after being on NICU but the more time spent there, the more familiar it becomes.
2. Limit visitors, just for the first couple of weeks. You've spent time with your baby but with nurses, doctors and other families around you. You may have even had the barrier of an incubator. Suddenly you are able to get to know your baby in your own time and space. There will be plenty of time for visitors.
3. Keep organised, you’re given a door step of paperwork on discharge and you cannot take what's being said to you in because YOU ARE GOING HOME. Sit down go through it all and mark on the calendar when the outreach team are coming or when you have a hospital appointment.
4. Talk. You may think the best thing for you is to move on quickly, start again but that's not healthy. Connect with other NICU Mums and parents who have been where you are and can understand what you are feeling. I wish I could tell you shutting it off, and pretending it didn't happen doesn't work and 4 years down the line NICU still haunts me. It needs to be spoken about and processed.
5. Routine, it may be that you and the baby have got into a routine of sorts when you were in NICU. Feed times, ward rounds so it might a bit disrupting when you come home and you may find your new home routine at a complete opposite. Be flexible, accept there will be some change and remember baby's don't always follow the intended plan!
Going home from NICU is always seen as the end goal, but it really is just the beginning.
It is truly one of the most emotionally draining experiences a parent can go through especially after just giving birth and around 70% of parents will go on to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Post Natal Depression.
Transitioning from NICU to home is as much about you as it is about the baby.
Take some time to heal, process and talk to others if you feel you could benefit from further counselling or advice then seek help from a professional or organisation such as BLISS.
Vicki Cockerill is a Freelance Content Writer and NICU/CHD Mum to two boys, she authors The Honest Confessions Of A NICU Mum Blog and co-founded the @KnackeredandNorwich Social Club and campaigns for NICU and MMH issues. You can contact her via her blog or social media;