When your baby is in the NICU (especially for an extended period), one day starts to melt into the next. It's sometimes hard to remember if you're coming or going, let alone what day of the week it might be. Hospitals don't shut down for the weekend and it's business as usual for the doctors and nurses. Surgeries still happen. Charts are still read. Machines still beep and whir constantly.
You can't shut down your worry or "take a break" just because Saturday has rolled around. It's just not that simple. Your baby's health is likely on a roller coaster ride and there's no telling when the next dip will occur. Our darkest day in the NICU occurred on a Saturday when we received the dreaded phone call, "You better get over here. She's not doing well."
Knowing all of this, there are still a few things I would encourage you to do when those weekends roll around:
- If you're religious, try to attend a service. If you really do not feel as though you can leave the hospital, check to see what types of services are given at the hospital chapel (ours offered celebrations for three different faiths) or at least take a few minutes to retreat and pray. This helps renew your spirit and also maintains a little normalcy in your life.
- Take advantage of the visitors you're likely to see on weekends and not weekdays. Most of your friends and family will be working during the week and will come to see you and the baby on the weekends. If Grandma is in sitting with your baby, give yourself permission to take a bath, go get your hair trimmed, sit quietly with a cup of coffee. You can feel more at ease knowing your child is not "abandoned" and those few minutes may be just what you need to feel re-energized.
- Learn to do even more for your baby. While medical procedures do not stop just because the weekend is here, they do slow down. Non-vital surgeries and tests are usually put off until Monday. It's often just you, your nurse, and your baby hanging around your baby's bedside. There are far fewer interruptions on Saturday and Sunday. This is a great opportunity to take on some more responsibility in your child's care. It was on the weekend that I first helped bathe my daughter. That was also when I first practiced threading the NG-tube down through her nose into her tummy. And when I learned to fortify the milk for her feedings. I found that our nurses seemed to have a little more time to work on these things with us on the weekends.
On Monday, I'll be addressing "Holidays in the NICU" (I feel like I have a bit of expertise in this area since my daughter was born on Christmas Eve!), so be sure to check that out too.