Finding ourselves in the NICU is not the way we envisioned parenting. We saw the days after giving birth filled with hugs and kisses, warm blankets and fuzzy teddy bears, a beautiful nursery and adorable clothes. We never envisioned our child with tubes and wires, a room filled with loud beeps and the roaring sound of the ventilator, nurses coming and going and constant research of medical jargon.
But we have found ourselves there. All we want is to be a parent. A parent to the child we gave birth to. Instead, we feel that have lost our role as a parent as we watch doctors and nurses care for our child in a way we should be able to care for them.
Our son was a month old before a nurse ever asked if we wanted to change his diaper and participate in his “touch time.” One month. One month of not really feeling like I was his mom because every one else was doing my job for me. The nurse was shocked to find out we had never been asked if we wanted to participate. I was heartbroken to find out we could have been participating in this (and more) whenever he was healthy and stable enough.
I changed that first diaper with a feeling of pride. I don’t think anyone in the world had ever been so excited to change a diaper! We took a thousand pictures – it was quite the momentous day. I remember being scared and excited. The nurse walked me through every step of changing his diaper around the tubes and wires. She was patient and kind and made me feel like this was the only thing that mattered to her at that moment.
Whenever possible, we tried to be present for any bath time, diaper time, temperature time – anything that we could do to feel like parents. I craved anything I could do to feel like his mom.
Ask. Ask your nurse if you can change your child’s diaper. Ask if you can help with bath time. Ask if you can assist in taking their temperature. Ask if you can help put clothes on your child – even if it is just a cute hat or pair of socks. Ask if there is anything you do can. Be honest. Tell the nurse you want to parent your child in anyway possible.
I wish I had known sooner in our NICU journey this was possible. I didn’t know it was an option so I didn’t even know to ask. I felt such great regret that he was a month old before I changed his diaper. I finally realized that all I could do was move forward from that day and participate in any way possible.
Yes – parenting while in the NICU is less than ideal but taking advantage of any opportunity to participate in your child’s care will help your NICU days be just a little brighter.