How to Deal with a Premature Birth
In this article:
- How to process your feelings from your birth experience.
- Where to get extra support, if you need it.
- What to expect with potential NICU visits.
- Ways to care for yourself, so you can care for your baby.
Premature births are one of those unexpected things that can take a massive toll on anyone. No parent wants to welcome their little angel into the world like that. Instead of joy and excitement, you have to deal with several weeks of worry and grief.
One thing that's common among every parent who has had to deal with premature birth is the complex mix of emotions that they experience. Negative emotions like grief, worry, shock, anger, and guilt swirl around your head. Mixed in are positive emotions like hope, love, longing to be with your baby, and relief that at least it was not a miscarriage.
It is not normal for anyone to deal with all this at the same time. It is an overwhelming feeling that can disorient anyone. That's why we thought we'd create this step-by-step guide on how to deal with a premature birth to help you navigate this difficult period.
Step 1: Acknowledge what you are feeling
Premature births can be shocking experiences. It might take some time for you to come to terms with what has happened. For some women, this realization can be crushing.
The first step to dealing with premature birth is being honest with yourself. Acknowledge what you are going through and take stock of your feelings. If you need to, talk to your partner, doctor, friend, or therapist.
Step 2: Accept your feelings
Acceptance of your feelings is an important part of your coping process. Your feelings may be confusing at first, so take them as they come. Cry, scream, or shout if you need to. Embracing your emotions in this way will help you heal.
Step 3: Write it down
Writing what you are going through will help you heal faster. Things will happen very quickly after your premature birth. Putting it all in writing will help you remember your journey. It will also help you make sense of your feelings and everything that has happened.
Step 4: Get support
Join internet forums and parent groups online for parents who are going through the same thing as you. Open up and talk to them. You can also get professional help by talking to a therapist, counselor, or psychologist.
Step 5: Be there for your baby
It is true that you have just gone through a traumatic experience. However, your baby needs you now more than ever. Spend as much time as you can with her. Become involved in her care. Ask questions about what she is going through and get to know her healthcare providers.
Whenever possible, get some skin-to-skin / kangaroo care to help you bond with her. This will also help your baby get better faster.
Step 6: Do not focus on the machines
The NICU can be pretty overwhelming, especially when you see all the machines keeping your baby alive. While it is important to try and understand what each and everything does, don't let them distract you from caring for your little one.
Your baby is the most important thing in the room. Sometimes, and more commonly with dads than moms, they might want to ask questions about everything because this helps them get some sense of control back. However, try not to let everything distract you. Instead of the machines, focus on changing diapers, taking temperature readings, feeding the baby, and getting some skin-to-skin contact.
Step 7: Support each other
You and your partner will have to deal with different feelings. However, it is important to be able to count on each other's support. Allow each other to express what you are going through. Talk about it and spend as much time as you need with your baby. Support each other's parenting efforts. Ask your partner to help you pump, change diapers, or feed your little one, for instance.
Step 8: Ask for help
You need all the help you can get when dealing with a premature baby. Remember, you still have other responsibilities at home and at work.
Step 9: Stay healthy
You need to be healthy if you are going to properly take care of your baby. Here are some of the things you can do:
Eat a balanced diet: This is even more important if you are breastfeeding because your baby will need all the nutrients she can get
- Get some sleep: Sleep whenever you can. Not getting enough sleep will make you irritable and affect your judgment and memory, which will affect the quality of care you can give your little one.
- Get some exercise: Go for a walk, get some fresh air, or do some yoga.
- Recharge: Turn off being a parent for a while. Take some time to read a book or take a warm bath. Do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself because it will benefit your baby.
Step 10: Monitor how you are feeling
When dealing with premature birth, things change very quickly. These sudden changes can take a toll on you, affecting you emotionally.
Therefore, even if you think you are coping well, closely monitor your feelings. This will help you notice when things are starting to feel overwhelming. It puts you in a better position to figure out what to do about it.
Step 11: What if you can’t deal with it on your own?
Premature births can be quite stressful. It is not unusual to feel like you are being pushed to your breaking point. If this is how you are feeling, it is time to seek professional help. Talk to your doctor and they will offer resources at the hospital. You can also get your own psychiatric help.
Having a premature baby turns your life upside down. Your wife will feel like it revolves around hospital visits and visiting your baby. You will have no social life to speak of and all your hobbies and interests will be placed on the back burner. It is an exhausting, distressing, and traumatizing experience.
Luckily, there are a few things you can do to help you deal with this challenging period of your life. Accept that it is happening and take care of yourself, then do everything you can to bond with your little one. And hang in there. Your baby won't be that tiny forever. You are going to get through this. And you will learn so much about yourself and how strong and lucky you are to have that little angel.