Learning to cope when your baby is born sick

This is  never an easy subject to broach, but I feel like eventually we might need to discuss it.  No parent ever wants to think that their new baby may be sick after birth, but the truth is, that it happens on occasion–and there’s usually not a thing you could have done about it. Especially if you have no warning of an illness or medical condition, it can be startling to take an already stressful event (though a happy one) and make it more stressful.

Statistics show that one in ten babies born in the U.S. will require some form of resuscitation after birth.  It may not be a full-blown CPR event, but sometimes babies need a little “jump start” to get going.  Thankfully, the resiliency of newborns makes them respond almost instantly to the assistance given by skilled doctors and nurses, and they bounce back quickly with no problems.  For you as a parent, you probably will never even notice the quiet whispers being passed between your nurses as they work to help your baby.  I have handed beautiful, healthy pink babies to mothers only minutes after I had been scrambling to help them breathe–and their mothers have no idea.  It’s the way it is.

Beyond a simple bit of assistance, are the babies who end up spending days in a neonatal ICU or nursery being monitored for other problems.  I’m not going to scare you–but I want to give you some pointers for those of you who may be faced with this very difficult situation.

First, remember that more than likely, you didn’t do anything to make your baby sick.  I can only think of a few clear cut issues that we won’t go into that fall into that category.

If your baby does require more intensive care, the shock of it can make it difficult to hear what the doctors and nurses are saying, so rely on a spouse, friend or family  member to help you listen to what they are saying.  Write down any questions you have so that you will remember to ask them–its easy to forget your name when you are upset.

Be nice to your doctors and nurses, and remember that they are stressed too–and working really hard to give your baby the best care possible.  It’s acceptable to want to see your baby, so don’t hesitate to visit the nursery and stay by your baby’s side.  For some procedures and X-rays, you may be asked to step out, but the medical staff will allow you to return as soon as they can.

Once I was caring for a newborn that had been in our nursery for over a week, and while he was relatively stable, he was still very sick.  His father was at the end of his logical rope and through his exhaustion and worry decided to try to physically remove the baby from the nursery so he could drive him three hours to a larger hospital. He really was receiving the best care possible already and a trip of that nature could have sent him spiraling downward.  What resulted was a major incident between the father and I as I struggled to keep some form of composure and keep the baby safe.  The baby stayed with me, and did well–but I say that to say this–try not to lose your cool.