7 terrifying things NICU parents want you to know

If you know a parent with a preemie who is fighting for their life, these are their harrowing experiences.

For most parents, welcoming their newborn into this world is joyous, so they want to celebrate this life-changing milestone. However, for parents who have to admit their born-too-early babies into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), it’s usually the start of their worst nightmares. 

Gleneagles Hospital's nurse manager, Susan Teo, notes that babies admitted to NICU are usually newborns suffering from:

* Severe respiratory distress syndrome.
* Severe meconium aspiration syndrome.
* Blood loss.
* Poor Apgar scores.
* Extremely low birthweight.
* Body temperature instability. 

If your little one is in the NICU, this will be a challenging time for you. This is what you’ll have to deal with…

1) It is a never-ending emotional roller-coaster ride If your physician deems it to be necessary, your infant will be transferred to the NICU almost immediately after birth. Here, your infant may be placed in an isolette — an infant incubator — to regulate their body temperature. Their body will also be covered with pads and cuffs that hook them up to machines keeping tabs on their vital info.

You might find it difficult to stay calm as you’re full of fear and worry, while your body’s pregnancy hormones are also in free fall. Says Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist at Dr BL Lim Centre for Psychological Wellness, “While it may be impossible not to worry, tell yourself that worrying is not useful.” So, channel that energy into taking good care of yourself and your spouse. Make sure to rest well and eat properly.

“While it may be impossible not to worry, tell yourself that worrying is not useful.”

Every day you get to spend with your newborn in the NICU is a blessing. Every little milestone bubba clears is a call to celebrate. Yet, the joy may be short-lived as your baby’s condition could suddenly take a turn for the worse. Teo says parents should expect unforeseen changes in their baby’s condition. She advises, “Asking the doctors whatever questions that come to your mind ― even the silly ones ― can help clear any doubts and misunderstandings.”

2) You’ll need to plan your finances You’ll need to do your sums with your spouse to figure out if you can afford treatment for your child. As different financial schemes are in place in the hospitals, don’t hesitate to ask about these.

Making concrete plans for your financial future is vital because it’s a challenge to hold down a full-time job while caring for your child in the NICU. You may need to ask for flexible work arrangements or even go on unpaid leave for an extended period of time. All these factors will inevitably compromise your monthly pay.

3) You may not be allowed to hold your newborn Depending on bubba’s condition, you may not get to hold your child except to touch him when you put your hands into the incubator. But don’t let that stop you from bonding with your child. Dr Lim notes that your newborn will also respond to your voice, so be sure to talk to your baby or even hum a song.