The hospital where parents care for premature babies
April 5, 2017 5:15 AM   Subscribe

"Sawbones," a podcast by a doctor and her husband that's usually about terrible ancient medical advice, had an episode touching on something similar-- the couple's baby was premature, and they talked about their experiences in the hospital. The doctor mentioned how, whenever she went to even change her daughter's diper or otherwise take care of her in the hospital, she felt judged and rushed-- if she took too much time, the nurse would step in and take over.

Good to see there's another approach.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 6:00 AM on April 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

Speaking from experience, caring for a premature baby is not always the easiest place to be in (the oxygen monitor will scare the shit out of you), but in addition to the benefits mentioned in the article, it does make it much easier to cope with the situation when you are involved and in control of (some) things, rather than just watching your baby from behind the glass and thinking of what could have gone and what could go wrong. Which, I guess, is why I have never - neither while in hospital nor in the time that has gone by - even considered the possibility that in many other places, the hospital would not have let us anywhere near the baby. Sure feels weird being 30 years ahead of the rest of the world.
posted by daniel_charms at 12:00 PM on April 5, 2017

This is good for everyone concerned. Good for the parents, who feel like they have some measure of control, usually good for the hospital staff, who get an extra set of hands to help (usually), and apparently good for the babies too. I'm not surprised at all.

As parents who spent 45 days in a NICU (not a premature birth, other complications) in Sydney, we were pretty experienced with the care needs by the time we were ready to go home. It was an oddly comforting routine to slip into, with the hums and beeps and smells, the rhythms of shift changes and the friendly nurses (and the one total jerk), the specialists' rounds. It was much easier than the helplessness and isolation of going home with a baby with profound needs after we were discharged. And now, 9 years later, we've changed more G-tubes at home than most of the doctors and nurses we see.

But this:
> Parents also perform more complicated tasks, including inserting a tube into their baby's nose to allow them to feed.
I've done this - quite a few times - and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. It was a 100% awful experience every time, for all of us.
posted by RedOrGreen at 12:36 PM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

My twins were born six weeks premature (four months ago tomorrow!), and our local hospital's NICU was setup to allow parents to help as much as possible. After my wife was discharged, we were moved to the equivalent of a small hotel room in the same ward, and lived there for a week, feeding the babies, logging the contents of their diapers, and recording vitals. We didn't know how fortunate we were at the time, but after hearing other peoples' experiences, we were glad to live near such a progressive hospital and have insurance that covered everything.
posted by bradf at 12:40 PM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Being a nurse in that job involves the most magnificent successes as well as the most hurtful failures - I have no idea how they do it and survive, and they have my deepest admiration.

As for the parents.. I haven't the first inkling of a clue leading up to a thought about a possible idea of what they are going through. I could not possibly make a sensible comment on all this.
posted by DreamerFi at 2:56 PM on April 5, 2017

Reading this, I feel incredibly sad (although I should feel happy for continued progress in the NICU world). I'm still grieving the difficult experience of having my son in a NICU that was ... 20? 30? years behind the times. Right after my son was born, a few close friends who had also had NICU babies (in different hospitals) assured me that I'd be involved in baby's care, staying in the hospital, getting up at 2 am to try to nurse, living beside his incubator ... and my experience was very different. I had to insist on him being fed the breastmilk I pumped. Never once did we do kangaroo care. The first time I could hold him to my face was when he was 10 days old. (And that was the first time I got that rush of love, oxytocin, whatever it's called.) I was told to leave his ward frequently because there wasn't enough room for all the parents so we were supposed to take turns.
It was very odd. NICU stays are notoriously traumatic for new parents. And yet, it was a slow and gradual transition into motherhood. I went and did his care and met with the doctors and nurses and then ... I went back to my hotel room and did non-mom things. I wrote emails for work and did some paperwork, I went to acupuncture and pumped milk and slept ... all things that new moms generally don't get to do.
One thing that had scared me the most about motherhood was the suddenness of it all: one day you're a pregnant but otherwise independent person; the next, you've got a 24/7 job that is completely new and there's no training. In some ways, having my son in a backwards NICU helped me transition over several weeks into motherhood, and at the time I was actually grateful for that. In hindsight, though, I realize I missed out on so much instinctual bonding, getting to know, falling in love with a new baby. It wasn't until he was 6+ months old that I really started to connect with him. I know now that if I had been allowed to participate more in his care, things would have been much different.
posted by bluebelle at 6:54 PM on April 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

That NICU sounds abysmal, bluebelle. We were very lucky with our NICU that they could let us stay in a parents room (although it was made clear that if someone needed it more we would be asked to move). We were also allowed access to our baby 24 hours a day, except when they were doing ward rounds. The neonatal nurses were incredibly informed about expressing milk, kangaroo care, etc. But I've heard horror stories from other hospitals about parents being treated as an inconvenience.
posted by threetwentytwo at 4:45 AM on April 6, 2017

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