Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Surviving Special Care

When your baby is born early or poorly, its a frightening time. This is what I wished someone had said to me.

  1. Taking care of yourself is your top priority. Your baby is being cared for by a very experienced and well trained group of professionals, but you are the top member of that team. If you do not care for yourself, you will not be able to do your job to the best of your ability.
  2. The journey is long, and you do not know at this time how long it will be, so you must come up with some strategies to maintain your energy and focus.
  3. Eat. If a neighbour says "let me know if there's anything I can do to help", get them to pack you a lunch, or make a casserole for your evening meal. It's very important to keep your strength up especiallly if your are expressing.A similar point, but fluid intake is vital. Pack water, make sure you have pennies in your bag for tea and coffee. If someone offers you water, say yes.
  4. Use your changing bag. If you had already bought a changing bag for your baby, use it now, or go and buy yourself a lovely one, if you have the resources to do so. In that bag pack: - healthy snacks (cereal bars, chocolate - 70% cocoa solids, dried fruit, nuts, juice boxes, wipes, anti bac hand gel, notepad, pens, magazines, books)
  5. Take your notepad into the unit. Ask for unfamiliar terms to be written down. Write down any questions that come to your mind
  6. Be a mummy. If that means singing songs, reading OK magazine to your baby, taking in treasured childen's books - do it. You are your child's mummy, and your baby will appreciate being sung to, or talked to.
  7. Take time out. If its sunny, take your lunch outside. If its raining, sit in the cafeteria. If you have mobile internet pop on facebook and say hi to a friend. Send a text. Read a pointless magazine. You must take time out to refresh and recharge, and keep in touch with life outside the hospital.
  8. Schedule time to express. There are many different schools of thought on expressing. Some say to do it as you would feed a baby, not on a schedule, and do it when you feel you need to. This does not work. I am sorry but it doesn't. You don't know your baby in that way yet, you have to schedule it and stick to it. It's too easy to forget. If you forget your in danger of losing your supply. Don't beat yourself up over it, but accept that if you do not express frequently, you cannot maintain supply.
  9. Put guilt aside. No mother going through special care does not feel intense guilt that this is all her fault. There is time to go through this later, right now, you need to focus on your baby, and what you need to do to get through this. I can tell you til I am black in the face that this is not your fault, but you will not believe me. Put your guilt in a box and deal with it later.
  10. Use your tools, and use anyone at your disposal. I went to the chaplaincy office every day. Just to say hi, the chaplain would make me a cup of tea, and give me a cuddle. I found it really helpful to have someone outside the unit just to cry with, or laugh with or offload to. Spiritual care is not about religion, its about taking care of the whole person, so if you have a chaplaincy team feel free to use them, they are not just about saying prayers for little old ladies in wards. 
  11. Keep your belief going. Bond with your baby. If the worse happens, you can never say "I never loved my baby enough". Love, love, love your baby. Take time on the unit to gaze at him/her, get to know your baby intimately, and wonder at the beauty you have created.

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