Expert Advice: What To Expect After Your Preemie Delivery
You never expect to give birth prematurely. When it happens, it’s difficult to know where to turn.
What should you ask the doctor? How do you prepare for the first few months of your tiny baby’s life?
To answer these questions and more, we turned to Jennifer Beatty, LMSW and Program Director of Hand to Hold.
Hand to Hold is a non-profit organization that provides comprehensive resources and support to parents of preemies, babies born with special health care needs and those who have experienced a loss due to complications.
After giving birth early, it can be overwhelming and difficult to know what to do next. Do you have any words of advice for new parents who just gave birth to a preemie?
My best advice is not to get so overwhelmed that you forget that you are a new mom/dad. Although your entrance into the parenting world wasn’t what you planned or dreamed of, you have arrived regardless.
Don’t forget to look past the wires, tubes, monitors to see your precious baby. Focus on each tiny finger and toe. Celebrate and look for the positives in every day. Allow yourself to fall in love and ask to be engaged in their care as soon as possible.
Don’t be afraid! If the nurse can do it… so can you!
What feelings are “normal” for moms who deliver early?
There is not a feeling that isn’t normal after an early delivery. And they can all happen within seconds of each other.
Sad, happy, fear, loss, denial, love, numb, anger, peace, joy, regret, anxious, frustration, confused, overwhelmed, terrified, alone, “normal”… there are truly no feelings that would be out of the ordinary.
What are some important questions to ask your doctor?
Anything you don’t understand. There will be a lot of information and terms that are completely new to you. Be sure you ask them to repeat or write down anything you have questions about.
One of the best questions I always try to ask is… what am I not asking that I should be? Also, be sure to ask when you can start being involved in your baby’s care.
Every baby’s situation is different. But as soon as they are ready, you will want to jump in and be the one changing the diaper, taking the temperature, doing kangaroo care, bathing and any other tasks that you can. This is so important for you as a parent to be involved and to help establish your bond with your baby.
What kinds of special situations should preemie parents prepare for?
Have a designated person to keep your family and friends informed about your baby’s progress. It is taxing to repeat the story over and over and can lead to depression as you focus on the negatives and exhaust yourself.
Keeping a journal with your baby’s journey as well as your thoughts and emotions is a healthy way to keep track of all the events and makes a great keepsake years later when looking back and the memories are all a blur.
Finding a qualified caregiver is tough and depends on your baby’s situation. Care in your own home is often ideal as NICU babies immune systems are often compromised for the first several years. Talking with caregivers and making sure they are aware of your special circumstances is the best course of action.
Finding a support group, in person or online, is an ideal way to deal with the ongoing social and emotional effects of the NICU journey. Post-partum depression and anxiety as well as PTSD can affect parents up to two years or longer after a preterm birth and NICU stay.
Finding a community of peers with similar journeys has been proven to reduce the chances of these occurring. Be sure to talk with your doctor if you feel depressed or if you are unable to function normally.
Including your group, where do you recommend preemie parents turn for advice, products and resources?
An online search for preemie parent or NICU stay can turn up numerous resources and articles. Some of my favorites are HealthyChildren.org, PreemieHelp.com, EveryTinyThing.com, PostPartumProgress.com, and PostPartum.net.
Have you given birth early? We’d love to hear your story. Share it with us here.