1) Don't beat yourself up: Every so often, I am blindsided by a moment of irrational but gut-wrenching guilt. It breaks my heart that my little guy is out in the big scary world when he should still be snuggled in the safety and comfort of his little growing chamber. One or two mom friends of mine have occasionally expressed how 'lucky' I am that with both my pregnancies, I never 'had' to go through the discomfort of the 3rd trimester. I really can't tell you how frustrating that is. Obviously, any mother would take a few months of physical discomfort over passing that discomfort and struggle on to their tiny, defenseless children. Not to say they mean to be unsympathetic, mostly I'm sure they're just trying to find a silver lining. Still, it fuels my guilt.
2) Don't be afraid to cry: Probably tired of listening to me agonize over my crippling new-mom hormones, my own mom finally pointed out that 'its okay to cry'. And -- aaaas usual -- she was totally right. I am certainly not the first new mom to shed tears over an isolette at our hospital's NICU. I should know, I was shedding similar tears there 15 months ago. It's totally normal and I'm told full term moms are just as weepy and pathetic.
3) Baked goods! Shout out to my awesome cousin and fellow NICU mama for this little nugget of wisdom. Turns out nurses, doctors, administrative staff, and NPs are easily won over by sugary treats. Finally, a healthy outlet for my Pinterest addiction...
4) Ask questions: I have discovered that my sanity is better preserved by directing questions to the NICU nurses and doctors than by spending my nights perusing the Internet for answers. Guess what, doctors are people too and the only stupid question is the one left unasked (so they say). Find out what the attending doc's goals and expectations are and inquire about what vital signs are considered normal and what each of your baby's accessories are called and what they do. Then you can wow your friends and family with your vast medical knowledge.
5) (Speaking of goals and expectations) Don't get worked up about discharge dates: In hindsight (it's 20/20, baby!) this was rookie mistake #1 we made with kiddo #1. Our NICU shares attending Neonatalogists with a larger hospital nearby and they cycle through on 2 week rotations. Our last attending doc came onto the scene with what seemed like a whole new set of expectations, resulting in more than a weeks worth of frustrations, tears, and occasional glimpses of my Italian-bred temper.
6) Nurse/pump: ...if possible. Don't let me or anyone else (*fake cough* LCs *fake cough*) bully you into it. I am the first to admit that without baby by your side, it's a serious uphill challenge. However, if you're a closet control freak like some of us (*fake cough* me *fake cough*) this may be the only tiny shred of control you have over the whole stinking ass-backwards situation. Plus the nursing is, as they say, a great way to bond with the little one...which is generally difficult since you're sleeping under different roofs. Word to the wise: do *not* let the constant pumping turn you into a raging lunatic if you are struggling. Instead, get help from the sanest version of an LC you can find before deciding to retire the milk jugs in for good. Preemies especially benefit from breast milk, but luckily they don't need much ;)
7) Every day, do something for you: it could be considered selfish of me to spend a little time everyday working out. Go ahead and judge, dear reader. I can totally take it. It's my opinion that after spending the other 23 hours of each day devoted to my kids -- including not sleeping more than 2-3 hours in a row -- an hour of 'me time' is totally justifiable. Ask my husband, I am a much more tolerable person if I can get a good sweat going once a day. Don't I owe it to my family to be *tolerable* at the very least? Maybe you're not craving an exercise induced endorphin rush, maybe you just need a good, old fashioned cat nap or -- I don't know -- a nice hot shower ?? (been there too...big time). Take it. Go crazy. Go the extra mile, so to speak, to feel like yourself again. The benefit gets passed on to everyone (especially the benefits from that shower...)
8) Don't try to be a hero: Here we have rookie mistake #2 committed during our first pass at the NICU. I was trying to work, pump round the clock, finish the nursery, make sure the house stayed spotless, and leave no dirty sock un-laundered or dish unwashed. As you may have guessed, I was pretty unpleasant during that period. Things look much different this time around...infinitely more dirty socks and dishes, smaller bank account, happier mommy.
9). Accept help: Because I frequently operate under the grossly mistaken belief that I am superwoman (even though it's been disproved over and over and over again), I struggle with this one. I am working on it though. Take last night for example, our neighbors showed up with a weeks worth of frozen meals and I happily accepted. My parents, MIL, and SIL have been gracious and willing babysitters for #1 and the other day, one of my rockstar friends set up MealTrain again. Hallelujah, we will eat like kings and barely lift a finger! This just points to two distinguished facts about my life:
A) I am surrounded by people who are selfless, empathetic, and generally very supportive; making me the luckiest gal alive.
B) Those people are all well aware of my status of the world's worst cook. -- even my kids don't cook long enough :-/
10) Celebrate the Victories: A week ago, little guy #2 was cleared to nurse for the first time. Today, we are steadily gaining (past birth weight to an astounding 4lb 4oz!) and 'nippled' over half of all his feedings in the past 12 hours! That kid just warms my heart all over and I could not be a prouder (NICU) mama...