After my personal NICU experience and journey there are a few things I would tell a NICU parent, but for today it would be: Advocate, Journal and Connect.
Remember that you are your child’s advocate. You are going to meet staff in the hospital that will truly care for your child, but they are not the parents: you are. You are going to meet staff who have been desensitized to the NICU experience. Do not allow that to influence you to become jaded. If you feel like you need to hold your child (kangaroo care) then advocate for it.
Journal, take notes, and log who the caretakers are for the day. Log what prognosis and treatments have been given. Log baby weight, length, how the baby is being fed, and how much milk the baby is getting at feeding time. Sometimes the information that the staff is giving you is too much to process at one time.
If you forget something that was said, your notes will give you a reference point. This reference point can be used to research further or ask questions to gain understanding on your baby’s condition. Though this NICU journey can be long, it is not forever. Once your baby is home this will allow you to reflect on the journal, or may be refer back to some useful keys. Or in the case of parents like myself, the journal becomes precious memories of the time you had with your baby.
Connect with a local preemie community, and if there is not a local community, connect with the digital community. Remember that YOU ARE NOT ALONE, and that in America there are 500,000 parents that walk the NICU journey every year. Connect with the community of parents that understand you, that will love you, and have walked the path that you are about to embark on.
One extra point: Be Positive–when I came into the NICU with positive attitude and positive words. My son would have better days. Do not let anyone speak negative about your child. Realistic yes, Negative no.