How to select your support team for your nicu and post nicu success!
Family and friends can all make a real difference in removing the obstacles you need out of the way in order for you to focus on your baby, both inside and out of the nicu. We don't recommend using your friends as much as your family in some task. We have pages devoted to each member and how we feel they can best help you on your journey! Below is how we recommend finding your obstacles and assembling your support team to help you move them!
Selecting your team!
Let's face it, this selection process isn't easy. Anytime you're on the selection based on skill set you're in the business of management. How you build and manage your team just may make a big difference in your nicu strategy! Let's get 2 major points down right now. (1) you can't choose your babies care team in the hospital. The doctors and nurses have care covered. (2) You can only pull from who wants to help. Do not sign people up for things they don't want!
What each parent needs to do is make a list of problems that would keep you out of the nicu. Then label these obstacles as hard or soft problems. A hard problem is like work or a job that you must do to make a living. A soft problem is more idea based like a gym or club you're in. Sometimes fear and anxiety are soft problems you need to deal with or take someone with you. Find out if you want to go to the nicu alone or with someone on a schedule works for you both. You need to figure out any barriers that would cause you to not see your baby and find someone who can remove that obstacle!
We believe the more you can have someone help you, the easier it will be to sustain a nicu visit. Some nicu parents stay for months on end and have many needs cleared. So write a list of all the things you need done in order to go to the nicu. Mowing the yard, doing the laundry, checking on animals, buying groceries, and others are just a few examples of things you can assign a support member to do!
Dealing with soft issues and isolation. So what soft issues need is cancellation, if the problem can be paused or stopped for a while so that you focus on your child then you can stop the reliance on you to meet the expectation. Unfortunately a lot of preemie parents feel isolated when these soft issues are cut off. Many parents are part of a social group that is active and they don't like making the sacrifice of leaving the group. We are saying that we need you to make time for your child and be there as much as you can. There is no reason to maintain your work out schedule or book club nights over seeing your child in the nicu. A preemie parent will force a cross pull of emotions trying to keep everyone happy that they make themselves miserable. The social group will notice the change and learn to isolate the parent from the group anyways so you might as well tell them up front. After your nicu stay and the specialist appointments are done, you can go back to things as usual. The estimated time for normalcy is 3 months after you get home from the nicu, as long as it isn't during RSV season.
Deciding on your team members!
Once you list is made and your categories are set, you need to start looking for people to ask about clearing the task in front of you. Share your list with those who may be interested so that they can pick the task you need done. Don't start assigning task based on prior skill! It may just be a female member who mows the yard and a male member who washes your dishes and does you laundry. Don't assume roles but let them decide what they want and realize that you may have a list item that will go unfilled. Some parents never get all their roadblocks removed completely. Just take what your team can give you and work around the items they leave up to you!
A side note on babysitting:
We don't recommend babysitting to your friends, even if the children are good friends and have a history together. A nicu family is under a great deal of stress and feeling are a bit tender so fights and disorderly conduct may occur from the children to the friends children. A good family member is better suited to babysitting while the parents are in the nicu. We find grandparents to be the better suited if they are willing and able to help you. The relationship is usually better and both sides are compassionate about the situation they find themselves in. Only when there isn't another choice do we suggest a friend watch your children. We only ask that you explain to them that they may see your kids some acting out from the stressful situation.
The NICU Family Problem:
Common everyday task can build up and seal your time you need to visit your baby! Babysitters are in high demand if you have older children! The stress of having to juggle responsibilities has you anxious and scared. These are just a few of the problems a nicu family has when their child is in the nicu. What you need to do is gather together a support group!
A Possible Solution:
Make a list of all the things holding you back from going to the nicu and show the list to your support team. You may be surprised on how many things can be taken in by others to free you up to see your child in the nicu! Your list may evolve with seasonal change and some of your members will leave while other can come in so make sure you have a plan in place to account for changes in season and schedules so that nobody is used up or put off by the constant workload. All together having a nicu support team is important in helping you have more time to see your baby in the nicu!
Support Team Do's and Don'ts!
Let's go into a few do's and don'ts when building your support team. We understand when you must make changes to the methods we teach when your scenario is different. Just make a list that fits your needs the best you can!
In conclusion, your ability to make a list of problems and find a group of people to help you deal with those problems can really help you clear up time for you to go see your baby in the nicu. Don't be afraid to ask your friends and family for help. Show this page to anyone who would want to see the order of why a list and support team is important to nicu parents who need time to see their baby in the nicu!
List of Team Building Steps
Find your problem areas!
Anything that stops you from going to the nicu is a problem area. A place to stay, a job, previous kids etc can be written down made into a list and shown to others.
Assemble your team!
Look for volunteers! Your family and friends make up a group of people who may want to help if they knew what areas you needed help in. Show them the list you made and let them pick!
Get up and go to the nicu!
Rely on your team and make the journey to the nicu. Don't let your responsibilities hold you hostage in a mental prison where you have the key to get out!
Recommended Resources For Family Members!
Your baby's grandmother can be a very good person to help you in and out of the nicu if the relationship is good and the grandma is willing and able to help. We have a page devoted to the nicu grandmother where we cover issues faced by so many parents who have decided to include their baby's nicu grandma.
A baby's grandfather can be really be good at keeping cool and seeing what needs done. If he is willing to do task, then a nicu grandpa can see to anything outside the nicu. We have a page devoted to the nicu grandfather and a few blog post that feature similar topics for you to see!
Aunts, Uncles, and In-Laws.
Depending on the family dynamics, your baby's aunts and uncles can be a great secondary group for babysitters since the likelihood of similar ages of children to your own if you have other children. See our other pages and blog post about how aunts and uncles can be helpful and involved!