How to Ride the NICU Roller Coaster

red rollercoaster loops

The NICU experience is often compared to a roller coaster ride, and it’s easy to understand why!

There are ups and downs, twists and turns, and it’s thrilling, exhilarating, and terrifying all at the same time. (And that’s just a typical Tuesday morning!!)

You never know what’s coming down the tracks when your baby is in the NICU, and that can make you feel a bit helpless and out of control. That’s the reality of the NICU.

This is a unique, and at times very challenging, journey. It comes with a lot of BIG feelings that can be overwhelming. But it’s important to remember that no matter what you’re feeling, it’s COMPLETELY normal! And, don’t forget to ask your friends and family for support!

The Ride Begins…

Some parents know their baby will likely spend some time in the NICU. Others are taken by surprise after their baby is born. Either way, a stay in the NICU usually brings some anxiety, apprehension, and uncertainty. Parents often wonder what to expect when their baby ends up in the NICU.

You’re THRILLED that your little one has arrived, but you’re still unsure (and probably a little afraid) about what lies ahead. Who could blame you! This isn’t what you’d planned for your family, and it’s okay to feel fear, sadness, and disappointment that you didn’t get the birth experience you were hoping for.

Climbing the Hill…

This is the part that feels like it takes forever!!

Your little one is working hard to grow and get stronger, but each baby does it on their own timeline. Sometimes it seems like other NICU patients are progressing more quickly and that can make you feel frustrated and even a little jealous! Parents often have questions like how long will my preemie be in the NICU? And Is my baby on schedule to leave the NICU? But, every baby’s NICU journey is unique.

Take it one day at a time and remember that each day brings progress.

The First Drop 

Very few NICU families get through the NICU with no setbacks. Things happen, and it can be heartbreaking and scary when they do.

When your baby has a setback, you need a strong support system to lean on. Talk to your partner, friends, family, or even your nurses about your fears and worries. They may not have all the answers, but they’ll be there to listen through the hard times and give you hope that tomorrow will be better.

 Picking Up Speed

Once your baby has spent some time in the NICU you start to get used to things! You develop a routine, and you become familiar with the inner workings of the NICU.

Things aren’t so scary anymore, and it’s probably a lot easier to focus on the positives. You see your cutie making such incredible progress and growing stronger every day, and that’s SO EXCITING! You’re able to participate in more hands-on care and you’re happily looking forward to that wonderful day when you FINALLY bring your baby home!

You Made It!!!

And then, just like that, the roller coaster ride is over! Your daily NICU routine is over. Your baby is healthy and thriving and ready for the homecoming you’ve been dreaming about.

It’s been quite a ride, and you’ve been stronger, braver, and more determined that you could ever have imagined! And now, you’ve made it!! Pack those bags because your family is heading home!!

The NICU roller coaster probably isn’t the ride you would have chosen as a new parent, but you’re doing an AMAZING job! On the tough days, I hope you will remember that everything you feel is normal, and you are never alone, NICU mom and dad. It’s a wild ride, but you’re up to the challenge!