Mamas on Bedrest: Going Home Without Your Baby

December 8th, 2014
002_02

Me and my daughter the day after her birth. Kangaroo (skin to skin) care is very beneficial to preemies helping them learn to regulate their body temperatures, soothing and comforting them and helping mamas and babies to bond.

Hello Mamas,

We all know bedrest is a beast, but we endure it with the ever pressing hope that at the end of the journey, we’ll end up with a healthy baby. Sometimes the journey ends up not quite how we expected. We deliver and our baby has to be taken into the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for special care. Even though all proceeds positively, it’s a tough pill to swallow that after the many weeks on bed rest, you actually have to leave the hospital without your baby. While most mamas on bedrest know that they have a higher than normal risk of delivering a premature infant, few are prepared for the feelings that ensue when they are discharged home from the hospital and their babies must remain. Many mamas describe a feeling of grief, a void and feeling like they didn’t really succeed in having a successful birth outcome. All of these are very valid feelings.

As a mama who had to leave the hospital without her baby, it was really hard to be wheeled down to the pick up circle in front of the hospital, all my personal items and flowers beside me, and no baby in my arms. And I was lucky. My daughter (a late phase preemie born at 36 w, 6d) only remained in the NICU for 5 days beyond my discharge. But it was still hard to walk into my house and to see her room all ready and to see the cradle and changing table in my room and for her not to be there. During those 5 days, I made the most of my time, created a routine with my husband and the order, quite frankly that feeling of control is what got me through.

Structure your days: Every day I got up, dressed and prepared a bag for the day full of snacks and supplies (breast pump tubing, bottles, breast pads, maxi pads and other personal items) and my husband would drive me to the hospital so I could be there by about 9 am. Once I arrived, I assumed most of my daughter’s care. I would weigh her, feed her, change her and weigh her again. Then I’d hold her and rock her, talking to her. My mother had come down to help out, so she would come to the hospital with me and we would take turns holding my daughter. While my mom held my daughter, I’d pump. I pumped every few hours and by the time she came home, we had enough stored breastmilk to take up nearly one quarter of our freezer. Occasionally during the day I’d take a nap in the rocker, but generally I hung out with my baby, holding her and caring for her as much as the nursing staff allowed. My husband would typically pick up my mom and I at about 7pm and he’d bring us home. I’d eat and pump and rest, my mom taking care of me, while my husband would go back to the hospital and hang out with my daughter until about midnight. We repeated this schedule daily until we brought my daughter home.

Now I am sure that many of you are thinking,

“Well that’s just fine for you. Your baby was only in the NICU 5 days beyond your discharge (10 days total). And you didn’t have any other children at home.” 

To this I say, “You are absolutely right!” But the point I want to make is that when your child is in the NICU, it’s stressful. Many mamas feel as if the nurses are bonding more with their babies than they are! Personally, I was kinda pissed at the nurses at first. They held my daughter before I did. Although they had whisked her by me when she was first born, the NICU nurses were the first people my daughter really  “saw”. I knew intellectually that they were doing the best possible for her, but frankly I was jealous. I wanted to be doing everything for her. I WAS HER MAMA!!! And as the days went on, and I was able to do more and more for her myself, those feelings of jealousy gave way to gratitude as I realized those nurses really were doing the best things for her at that time.

Get support: I live in Texas and my family lives in Massachusetts. My mom came down to visit and take care of me. It was a HUGE help. While she really didn’t do much (a few loads of laundry, made sure I ate, helped me move about comfortably), her presence meant more than I can say. She was there when we learned about a lot of my daughter’s lab tests. While most of them were negative and my daugther was progressing nicely, the anxiety that arose each time the neonatologist arrived was stiffling and each day that he said my daughter could not go home, mom was there to comfort me. Also, although I didn’t have other children at home, having my mother present would have enabled me to be with my daughter without having to worry about the care of my older children at home. Do what you can to have folks present to support you. Its invaluable!!!

Take Advantage of Available Services: Many hospitals offer a wide range of services to families with infants in the NICU (Social service consultations, assistance at home, getting medical devices and equipment for home if they are needed, counseling for parents if needed and so much more!). While I didn’t need many of the services offered, I did take advantage of the lactation consultations. My daughter had trouble breathing and that is why she was in the NICU in the first place. But she had difficulty breathing while nursing. The lactation consultant gave me tips on good positions in which to hold her comfortably, how to make sure enough of my breast was in her mouth to stimulate the milk let down reflex, and how to best help my daughter to be able to breathe while nursing.

Be present for all tests and ask questions about the results: There are a million and one tests done to make sure that your preemie is progressing and developing. As much as possible, BE PRESENT WHILE ALL OF THEM ARE ADMINISTERED!! There were a couple that they tried to tell me that I had to leave the room to have done. I refused. You have the right to refuse and be with your baby provided it poses no health risk to her or compromises the test. Speak up! And be sure to get full reports on all the tests and ask questions of the neonatologists when they do their rounds and present the test results to you.

Be patient: All babies go home. Some, like my daughter only spend a few days in the NICU. Other babies spend weeks to months. Whatever the duration of your baby’s hospital stay, know that they are getting the best possible care. And know that each day that they stay in the NICU is further preparing them to be home with you. One of the worst things that can happen is to get your baby home and for them to have some sort of complication that causes you to rush them back to the hospital. Be patient, allow the NICU staff to do what they do, and with time and grace, your little one will be home to stay!

2 responses to “Mamas on Bedrest: Going Home Without Your Baby”

  1. Anita says:

    Hi Darlene, I just read your birth story on Cynthia’s InSeasonMom blog. My kids are now 19, 16, and 14, but I still enjoy reading the birth stories of the “older” moms who Cynthia profiles – and I’ll be 57 this month!
    Best wishes with your blog. Your information, resources, and advice are invaluable to many women who are on the path to motherhood.

  2. Darline says:

    Hi Anita,
    Thanks so much for reading my story on InSeasonMom and taking the time to stop over here. Yes, we older mamas do tread a mighty road, but I think it’s very worth it!! Thanks so much for your support and all the best to you and your family!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *