“It is said that the walls of the NICU have heard more prayers than the walls of any church. Judging by my own experience and the experiences of families who I work with through Saul’s Light, a neonatal support charity, I know it to be true!”
Having a baby admitted to your hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) can be a truly devastating experience. It doesn’t matter whether that stay is 1 day or 100 days, being separated from your baby immediately after birth causes an enormous amount of stress and uncertainty. Kimberly Novod, NICU mom and Founder and Executive Director of Saul’s Light, shares her lessons learned on ways to combat the anxiety that comes along with an unexpected NICU journey.
In honor of NICU Awareness Month, here are the lessons I’ve learned as a NICU mom.
1. Don’t be discouraged; celebrate the little things.
The days ahead may be hard, but there will be good days too. Focus on your baby’s individual growth goals and celebrate the small victories. For example, document and photograph when your baby gets off oxygen or wears their first outfit, passes their car seat test, and certainly when they go home.
2. Get involved in your baby’s care.
You are still your child’s parent even though it might not feel like there’s much you can do for them. Ask the nursing staff how to get involved in your baby’s care. You’d be surprised by all the things that you can do such as kangaroo care or cuddling, changing your baby’s diaper, or dressing and feeding them. Reading to your baby with a book from a Saul’s Light Little Library is a great way to bond with your baby, create positive memories, and get a jumpstart on early learning.
3. Team work makes the dream work.
Along with the medical staff, you are the most important person on your baby’s medical team. Make sure to advocate for your baby, ask questions, and trust your own intuition. Know that every baby is different, and there is no typical case.
4. Accept help when you need it and even if you think you don’t.
Each hospital NICU team consists of not only doctors and nurses, but a host of other providers such as therapists, social workers, and pastoral care devoted to the health of your baby and family. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or if you just need someone to talk to. The NICU journey is not easy, but you are not alone.
5. Pay It Forward.
Write down the names of your baby’s care team. You’ll want to thank them later. A note to say thank you or a kind gesture would go far to show them your appreciation. If you would like to help other NICU families, get involved with Saul’s Light. You can volunteer, host a book drive, making a donation. It takes a village to support New Orleans’ NICU families. Join ours!
About Kimberly Novod
Kimberly Novod is the Founder and Executive Director of Saul’s Light, a New Orleans based non-profit organization that supports families who have a child in a local NICU or has experienced loss of a child in a NICU. The organization began after Kimberly and her husband Aaron’s first child, Saul, was born at 28 weeks and passed away 20 days later due to complications from his premature birth. The Novod’s established Saul’s Light in 2015 to ease the financial and emotional burden of having a child in the NICU or losing a child for other parents. Saul’s Light partners with Touro to establish a NICU Library and provide financial and emotional support to families in the NICU.