Friday, 11 February 2011

Parenting tips (for the NICU/SCBU parent)

This is a submission post for notesfromhome's blogging carnival: Friday Club - Parenting tips. Links to other entries are at the bottom of this post so please be sure to read them (I've just started working my way through the list!)

As a first-time parent to a 17 month old baby girl I was wondering what advice I could possibly give to other parents. Not simply because I haven't been doing this very long, but because I haven't had a typical experience with a 'normal' baby. Looking at my little girl you would no longer guess that she had a very difficult start in life. You would never indeed guess that at this time exactly 17 months ago today she was fighting for her life on a ventilator in the NICU having been born at 27 weeks gestation.

So, with the more than half of the 78 days of my life as a parent spent looking at my baby through the incubator portholes, having to ask permission to so much as hold her, I certainly don't have advice to give the parents of newborn term babies. Nor do I feel like I've discovered anything amazing that I could share with others in the time after NICU/SCBU graduation.

But what I can offer is a simple piece of advice for the parent of a precious baby born too sick or too soon. Actually, it's more of a warning than a piece of advice. And that is, TALK about what is happening to you, to your baby. Talk to your partner. You will both be feeling emotions neither of you will have felt before and you will both need support. It might be that one of you is positive and the other is worried and anxious, and that's ok. But each of those responses needs an outlet. I was seemingly positive and everyone marvelled at how well I was coping when actually, I was just storing up trouble for later down the line. I wish I had explored my feelings with someone, anyone, instead of refusing to acknowledge them and push them deep down so that they would rear their ugly destructive heads later on.

So that would be my advice, my plea if you like. Find a confidant, be it a friend, family member, or fellow parent in SCBU who is going through the same. You can support each other from a unique perspective and make a lifelong friend. Perhaps also keep a journal. I am so angry with myself that I didn't keep a better record of our time in NICU as I now seem to have blocked some of it out. I want to remember so I can deal with it.

Seeing your fragile baby through this traumatic ordeal is going to be the hardest thing you will ever have to deal with so take care of yourself as well as your baby. You will not be 'weak' for admitting that you are struggling too.

**Note: If you read the comments below it was pointed out by Kylie that there is an excellent resource in the charity organisation Bliss. I found their literature helpful and informative, but they also operate a helpline for parents who need an an alternative outlet aside from family, friends and the medical profession. I have it on good authority that the folk on the helpline are worth their weight in gold.

Here are the other entries in this parenting tips carnival:

Nova at Cherished by Me shares her tips in Encouraging Children to Read.

Gemma at HelloitsGemma's Blog gives us her working mum tips in This working Mummy’s guide to life.

Maggy at Red Ted Art shows us how Baby Can Draw!

Chris at Thinly Spread gives us her Secret to Relaxed Parenting.

Cass at The Diary of a Frugal Family shows us how she teaches her children about other countries and cultures whilst having fun in America Day.

Helen at Cheeky Wipes gives us her tips in Fussy Eating.

Kelly at Domestic Goddesque shares her advice in Terrible Twos: tips for dealing with tantrums?

Ella at Notes From Home gives us her tip for encouraging children to tidy up at the end of the day.

Tiddlyompompom shares her weaning tips in her oh so helpful guide to weaning.

Mymumdom shares her tips in Parenting Tips (Me Over The Edge).

SouthoftheRiverMum tells us her plans to set up a Reward System at Home.

Not so single mum at Diary of a Not So Single Mum shares her advice on doing what you feel is best for your child and your family.

Jax at Making It Up discusses behavioural issues in a quandary in search of a tip.

Bod for Tea shares her advice on finding a 'helper' to encourage your child to do things they don't really like doing in Bunny says.

Hayley at Simply Hayley tells us about Hugs and Love.

Make Do Mum shares her stickability scale in Know Your Enemy.

Blue Sky at Looking for Blue Sky gives us some teenage tips.


  1. What a brilliant piece of advice and you are more than qualified to give it!

  2. Wonderful advice.

    I'll add to it and say use whatever resources you can.

    I used the Bliss helpline and their Parents4Parents service and I also used our chaplains at the hospital, they were my lifeline, always ready with a tissue and a cup of tea.

  3. Thankyou. It's something I feel very strongly about :) x

  4. I thought that after I'd posted Kylie, but only just made the submission as I discovered Friday Club only an hour before deadline!

    Have to say I never phoned Bliss and I wish I had. Their leaflets/online advice were invaluable, but there is no substitute for someone really listening to your thoughts and fears.

  5. Ps: Kylie, I've added your advice regarding Bliss to the end of the post - along with a link to your blog for anyone who clicks on your name. An excellent resource in itself for anyone who is or has gone through this.

  6. :)

    In April last year, I was a SCBU parent for 11 days, very precious, because our son never came home. I learned a lot about a lot of things in those 11 days and not just about acidosis and anti-convulsants.

    You are quite right. Talk. When we came home, completely lost without the little boy we had loved for 11 days, we made time to talk, went out to make time to talk and insisted on confronting everything to try and avoid marital breakdown. Thankfully it worked.

    And yes, I too blocked out that time. I don't think I'll ever get it back. SCBU staf are amazing but they cannot make you keep memories when you are fighting to stay sane from one second to the next.

  7. I am so sorry for your loss. I really don't know what to say, except that and to thank you for your comment.

    I feel terrible that I didn't address parents who come home without their babies. Much as I am going through it at the moment it is nothing compared to what you must have gone through. I am just so glad that you and your husband got through it together.

    I hope that one day you will get some more of your precious memories back. Thank you again for your comment and for sharing your experience and perspective on the issues in my post x

  8. what a fab post. talking is important throughout this whole becoming a parent lark, but going through what you went through makes it even more important. brilliant advice :)

  9. I'm sure this post can help many many parents that are in the same position you were. Talking is so important, it's easy to push people away too. Your post should be given to parents of babies in scbu/nicu.

  10. Really great advice for what must be such a terrible time. I hope other parents can be helped by your experience.

    I hope you are doing ok now too and that you have had a chance to talk through your own experience with someone xx

  11. I had a 26 week baby 14 years ago who survived, but with problems, and we spent some six months almost full time in hospitals. Talking is so important, and I am still close friends with one Mum I met in the pre-natal ward at the time. Bliss does a great job for parents in the UK and there are other similar organisations in other countries. In Ireland there is the newly formed Irish Premature Babies. Glad to read that your baby is doing so well now x

  12. Brilliant post and lovely to hear that your little one is doing so well x

  13. Am glad that such a tough time had a positive end, and it's great that you can share you experience to help others.

  14. I love your post. You have given a great advice.
    Nice job!

  15. Thankyou so much ladies for taking the time to comment, and for your kind words.

    Looking For Blue Sky, so lovely to hear of your baby coming through after such a dire start. It is genuinely heartening to hear of successes and it must be to all the parents who are desperately worried about their own babies.

  16. Supporting Esther and William for 59 days in NICU/SCBU was so so hard. Everyday we would turn up at the hospital with our hearts in our mouths, just not knowing what to expect. We had a relatively easy journey through compared to other parents and babies. I wish I had talked to people more at the time. I am glad I can talk to people like you now x

  17. I'm glad William and Esther are doing so well now. They certainly are gorgeous!

    I know eactly what you mean about hearts in mouts - nothing like turning up at NICU when little one is 4 or 5 days old and she's been quarantines having caught an infection! Just like a rollercoaster. So so stressful. But yes, at least a good number of us find our way into communities like this one eventually. Better to talk later than never at all :) xX

  18. I think the amount of typos in that reply signals time for bed! :D



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