Hopkins_Baby Catherine_Large

It's Only Natural To Miss The NICU

Author: Megan Hopkins
Published Date: Tuesday, August 07, 2018

When my daughter was born at 25 weeks gestation, I knew that she would have a long journey in the NICU before she came home. Thinking about all the things we would do once she was home was one of the ways I fought back against the anxiety and focused on the future.

I longed for discharge day, thinking of it as the time we would leave this difficult chapter behind and everything would be OK.

After 132 days, my sweet Catherine came home. We carried her from the NICU to the car, walking her into the sunshine for the first time. We were full of joy and gratitude. That day was one of our very happiest as a family.

However, over the next few days I started feeling something I never anticipated: I missed the NICU.

After more than four months surrounded by nurses, it was really odd to not have a nurse to turn to when I had a question or wanted reassurance. When her pulse oximeter started alarming in the night, it was just me jumping to attention to see if everything was OK. Whenever I worried about things like her milk intake or weight gain I missed having a table full of doctors discussing next steps.

I also missed being surrounded by parent coordinators, social workers, and other moms who understood what I was going through. Being away from our whole NICU team – the people who saved Catherine’s life, who cared for our family, and who cheered for us every step of the way – was a lot harder than I expected. And the emotional impact of what we had gone through in the NICU really hit me once we were home.

Instead of leaving all those difficult emotions behind, I had more time to think about what a traumatic time we had been through.

As your child’s discharge date approaches, consider these things to make the transition home go as smoothly as possible:

  • Be hands on with your child’s care –  feeling confident caring for your child is essential
  • Attend discharge class
  • Learn how to use any equipment your child will bring home
  • Learn when to call your child’s pediatrician and when to seek care in the emergency room
  • Make friends with other NICU moms and get their numbers – this support will be invaluable once you are home
  • Remember to take care of yourself and your mental health –  exercise, meditate, write in your journal, talk to a counselor, or find whatever is helpful for you as you heal from the NICU and begin the next chapter of parenthood

About Megan Hopkins

Megan Hopkins is a member of the NICU Family Advisory Council and co-editor of the Pee Wee Post, a publication for NICU families. Megan is mom to Catherine, who was born at 25 weeks gestation and spent 132 days in the CHKD NICU. Catherine is now four and thriving thanks to the care she received at CHKD. Megan lives in Norfolk with her daughter and husband.