Coping with Premature Birth

Coping with the Emotional Impact of Premature Birth

The experience of premature birth can evoke a wide range of emotions for parents, from shock and grief to fear and guilt, and more. Coping with premature birth is a trying experience, but processing your emotions after a premature birth is so important. Thankfully, there are strategies and support systems that can help parents navigate this difficult journey. Let’s explore the emotional impact of premature birth and having a baby in the NICU, along with guidance for preemie parents.

Understanding the Emotional Impact of Premature Birth

Coping with premature birth can bring about a complex mix of emotions for parents. It’s normal to experience a wide range of emotions, particularly ones that you may not have expected to feel at all when your baby is born. Shock, confusion, and helplessness are common when first faced with the unexpected arrival of your premature baby. Parents may also grapple with grief over the loss of the remainder of their pregnancy, an ideal birth experience, feelings of guilt, and a sense of unmet expectations. The experience of seeing a premature baby in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) or special care nursery (SCN) can be overwhelming and can evoke fear, anxiety, and confusion. These feelings are completely valid and normal after becoming a preemie parent.

Tips for Managing Emotions for Preemie Parents

Parenting a preemie is an emotional rollercoaster. The most important step is to give yourself grace. A lot of different feelings will come up, and it’s essential that you give yourself permission to feel them. Let’s explore emotional coping tips for preemie parents.

Self-Care for Parents

  • Accept Your Feelings: Acknowledge and name your emotions without pushing them away. Recognizing and expressing your feelings are essential coping steps for preemie parents.
  • Be Kind to Yourself: Remind yourself that you are doing the best you can. The preemie parenting experience is challenging. Practicing self-compassion is so important.
  • Seek Support: Talk to trusted family members, friends, or professionals about your feelings and emotional needs. It’s okay to express negative feelings and ask for support. No one is meant to do this alone.

Coping Strategies

  • Pamper Yourself: Engage in self-care activities such as getting a haircut or massage to nurture your emotional well-being. You may feel guilt that you should be by your baby’s side in the NICU 24/7, but it’s so important that you take care of yourself, too.
  • Celebrate Breakthroughs: Allow yourself to feel grief during difficult times, but also celebrate positive milestones and breakthroughs in your preemie baby’s journey. You may feel anxious to celebrate positive milestones with your baby’s fragile health journey, but doing so gives you access to the joy that you so deeply deserve.
  • Stay Informed: Stay informed about your baby’s care to feel secure and confident in their care. You can never ask too many questions!
  • Bond With Your Baby: When your baby is strong enough to be held, do so to your heart’s content. Your touch, smell, and voice are important for your premature baby, but skin-to-skin bonding time is good for your wellbeing, too.

It Takes a Village

Having a baby in the NICU is an incredibly stressful experience. Here are ways that friends and family members can support their loved ones who have a baby in the NICU:

  • Offer Assistance: Help with simple chores such as grocery shopping, laundry, or running errands to ease the parents’ burden. Deliver meals to the hospital, offer to spend time with older siblings or pets, and generally be available to be an extra set of hands.
  • Listen: A listening ear goes an incredibly long way. Offer a non-judgmental space for parents to express their feelings, and respect that unless you’ve also been a preemie parent, there will be aspects of their experience that you can’t fully empathize with.
  • Visit and Offer Help: If possible and desired by the parents, spend time with the baby in the NICU and offer to stay with the baby while the parents take a break.

Seeking Professional Help

If the emotional impact of premature birth becomes overwhelming, it’s important to seek professional help. The hospital should have resources for preemie parents such as support groups, recommended counselors, or spiritual or religious support. Parents should not hesitate to ask for support and reach out for assistance if they feel that their emotions are becoming unmanageable. It’s normal to be overwhelmed by the preemie parenting experience, and professional guidance can be a true blessing to help you cope with raising a premature baby.

Coping with premature birth is a challenging and stressful journey. But with self-care, support from loved ones, and access to professional help, parents can navigate this experience with resilience and strength. It’s essential for parents to acknowledge their emotions, seek support, and practice self-compassion as they care for their premature baby and themselves. When your preemie is finally ready to come home, make sure you have support lined up to ease the transition. Having a baby in the NICU can make time seem to stand still, but before you know it you’ll be welcoming your preemie home.