Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Parenting Lessons from the NICU


Having a hospitalized newborn is definitely a rough start to parenting. At the same time, my daughter's two months in the NICU was full of important life lessons for me as a parent. Here are a few things I learned:

1. Don't compare your child to other children. Everyone is different, and to compare is to place unfair expectations on my child, and to set myself up for disappointment. While S was in the NICU, I was busy studying other babies who came around the same weight and gestational age. When she didn't meet the same milestones at their pace, I was inevitably crushed. At the same time she beat some of them to other milestones. Every baby has different genetic and developmental variables. I need to focus on just my baby, one step at a time. When I stop comparing I free myself up to rejoice in the little improvements that she makes on her own perfect time table. Everyone is happier that way!

2. Don't be obsessed with numbers! Every NICU parent falls into the rut of staring at the monitor screen. What is my baby satting? How's her heart rate? Other numbers can also become an obsession- what she weighed today, how many ml she took at her last feed, etc. This can keep us as parents from just enjoying our babies. Let the numbers go! Study your baby for his important cues and you will learn better how to help and care for him. I suppose that someday this will apply to things like test scores :).

3. My child is in God's hands. This was probably the hardest one for me, and yet the most essential. Every night I had to say good-bye to my baby and leave her in the hands of practical strangers. Don't get me wrong- the nurses were fantastic, and we really grew to love a handful of them that we are still in touch with since S's release. But some were better than others, and some I didn't know as well. Some cared more and really invested as they would if it were their own family member. But for some of them it was just a job. And what if my little girl was left to cry on her own for a long time? Her voice was so little, and she was in a room all by herself. Or what if a life-changing decision had to be made, and the person in charge of her made the wrong choice? Or what if they were negligent and the impact effected my baby for the rest of her life? The scary scenarios were endless, and if I had continued to dwell on them I would have made myself crazy. Ultimately I had to realize that my child was in God's hands. He was in that hospital room with her, and He was working each event in it according to the counsel of His will. Even if something did go terribly wrong. Isn't this true at all times anyway? When your child is 2, 4, 10, and beyond. Even if you watch them like a hawk and do all that you can, sometimes kids get cancer. Or hit by a car. Or choke or run away or are kidnapped. It happens  all the time. And the only thing we can know for certain is that the LORD is with them, and nothing happens to them apart from His loving and perfect decree. We don't have any guarantees outside of that ever. All that we can do is entrust them to our Heavenly Father's care.    


4. Be flexible and go with the flow, don't come with expectations which you cannot control. The NICU has been called a roller coaster countless times by countless people. One day your baby is doing great and you feel elated, the next day is disastrous and you walk away heartbroken. The only way I found to take it in stride was to try to keep a blank slate every morning when I walked into S's room. No expectations, praying for grace and patience for whatever was ahead, rejoicing in the sweet things as they came along. This is a moment-by-moment battle. We can have victory only in clinging to the promises of God!                                                                                                                                                             
5. Do not worry about tomorrow. I guess this ties in with the last two. Don't entertain endless what-ifs, be in the present and trust the LORD with this moment. His mercies are new every morning, and He gives more grace, as you need it!

6. My hope is in God, not men or medicine. Another toughie, also ties in with the last three. Sometimes doctors would promise us things that didn't happen, and when S didn't meet their expectations we were hugely disappointed. Other times S exceeded their expectations. Ultimately it didn't matter what drug they used or decision they made- how S responded and what happened in her body was, again, in God's hands .It is very easy to trust in things we see, but we are called to rely on the One who is unseen. And we praise Him no matter what- when things go as we had hoped, or when all earthly hope is lost.                                                                                                                                                                                                          
I hope that these lessons will be a help to you as they were and still are to me. What important lessons have you learned as a parent?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Linked Up With: Titus 2sday                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

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