NICU Survival Guide

So, your pregnancy didn’t end the way you wanted to. You may have had a sick baby full term or given birth to a preemie. Either way, you had to watch your baby get whisked off to the NICU. What is the NICU? Why do babies have to go?

The NICU stands for Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. It’s the unit where babies go when they are too sick to stay with their moms or go into the normal nursery. When you enter a NICU for the first time, you’re going to enter a whole new world. You will see babies of all sizes. Babies who were born too big and too small. The thing they all have in common, is that they are all too sick to go home.

When you’re dealing with a short term or long term NICU stay, you will be under a lot of stress. You will go home but baby will not be with you. You will enter a strange land that will come to feel like a second home by the time you are done. What is the NICU and how can you cope with having a baby in the NICU? Read on to learn.

Who am I to talk about NICU stays?

My baby was born 3 months premature and weighed only 1.5lbs. She was very sick and had 5 holes in her heart. After five months in one NICU we switched her to a more specialty NICU out of state where she lived for another four months before coming home. In all, we had 4 surgeries and almost 9 months in NICU. With all that time, I went out of state to stay at the hospital, where I stayed in the Ronald McDonald House but primarily slept in the hospital with my girl. I studied books about different conditions she was born with, what other babies could be born with and read every resource available. I was 23, so I was still young myself when she was born.

I attended many parental meetings and dinners, socialized with a lot of other families and ultimately found it depressing watching all the families come and go so fast. There were people there for two or three days, a couple weeks and even one or two months. Seeing all the new faces constantly and saying goodbye to people with babies graduating got to be too much and I stuck with two other moms- one who had an older baby and the other who’s baby was born the same day as mine. She and I ended up leaving on the same day and even ran into each other at a few follow ups.

The family nights are vital to keeping sane. They can also cause you to fall into a depression if you’re in it for the long term while other faces are new and getting ready to leave. To me, at first, they were vital to feeling like I wasn’t alone. By the end of the NICU stay, it caused me to fall and I had to stop going.

Family nights are set up to help families meet other families in NICU and to provide some joy in stressed out lives. It doesn’t matter how long you’re in the NICU, it’s stressful. I sent my healthy baby to the NICU just for a few hours to get an EKG to make sure she didn’t have heart defects like her sister and it was stressful, and she wasn’t a NICU baby.

Parent Nights

Many hospitals will have dinners, pizza nights and even family craft nights. The second hospital we sent our daughter to had a once a week meeting of parents where we could talk about our babies’ progress as well as life in general. Those meetings can be vital to give a sense of belonging to families struggling to understand things and handle the stress, but it can be a double edged sword. If your baby has been in the NICU longer than half a year and you are seeing the babies come and go with no real improvement with yours, it can grow from a sense of community to feeling depressed that your baby will never leave.

If you find yourself stuck in that boat, try to find the other parents who are in it for the long haul. Other parents with a longer than six month NICU stay can help you find that sense of community.

Self care

Self care is vital. You will need to learn about different medical issues your baby is dealing with as well as having tons of information swriling around you. You will need to know feeding schedules, you will likely have to pump some if you’re wanting to breastfeed and you will have to deal with your baby with all types of needles, tubes and pumps. With all that added stress, you need to take care of yourself.

I was given a self care package from a group of people when my baby was in NICU and one of my favorite things was a hand and nail scrub. They gave me stuff to do my own little spa days and those helped me feel more human.

Choose little things you can do to make you feel better. I took up jewelry making and loom knitting. Babies sleep a lot and you can’t always get your baby out of the crib on demand, so while she slept, I worked on making hats and earrings. Pick easy to move around crafts, if you’re the crafty type, and work on those. If you enjoy knitting or crocheting those are easy to move from one room to another.

Miscellaneous

Another thing you can do is start a page on social media or a group to follow your baby’s NICU journey. You can invite friends and family who are wondering about it and spend your free time bringing awareness to the condition(s) your baby is dealing with.

Find a new TV show to watch and make it a ritual to hold your baby while watching new episodes. My baby was in the NICU when the TV show Secret Circle came out. I made a habit of holding her while she napped and watching the show. It felt like a special bonding moment with her in the NICU.

I will never stress this enough, when you’re dealing with the isolation of having a sick baby in the NICU, you need to find a community. You need other people. You may search around online to find long term NICU support groups or you may even want to see if other long haulers in the hospital your baby is in want to get together. If you’re in it for the long run, it can and will be depressing seeing everyone come and go so if you find a community of others like you, you will have the chance to talk to other people who feel more like you do.

There are many ways to survive long-term NICU stays. You don’t have to do it alone the nurses will be there to help you understand your child’s condition and there are plenty of books you can get to help you understand.

If you have a preemie and have the “What to Expect” books, you likely can just toss them out- preemies tend to not go through the same milestones at the same times as full term babies and reading where your baby is supposed to be can just cause added stress to an already stressful time.

Beginner Guide: Beekeeping

If you’re interested in having a supply of fresh honey, wanting to eventually sell honey or you’re wanting to collect your own beeswax to make candles or other items, you may have thought about starting to beekeep.

Research

The first step is to study up. Start in the summer or fall and read everything you can. Look on Facebook or Nextdoor and find a local beekeeper group, ask people you know who keep bees. They say spring is the best time to start a new hive, so spend the other seasons collecting your gear and preparing for your hive. The first thing you want to study is all about honeybees. You want to know as much as humanly possible about the way honeybees work, how their bodies are made and what they do.

You do not want to even think about bee keeping until you’re well versed on bees themselves, it likely won’t work if you do not understand bees.

Supplies

After you learn about bees, start studying and watching everything you can about bee keeping. There are many great TikTokers who go into detail about their hives, including one who is always showing herself moving hives around and saving hives that are in bad locations.

Once you have learned all you could about bees and beehives, once spring rolls around, you will want to start gathering everything. You will want the supplies before you get your hive.

If you network in local or online groups, you may be able to find someone who will sell you a hive when you’re ready to start. They can also recommend the best supplies.

Get your supplies- you will need a full body suit, a smoker, storage for the hive, a veil to keep your face safe, a hive tool and uncapping tool and a brush. You can find these on Amazon for cheaper than in specialty stores and depending on where you live, you may need to shop online.

Once you get all the supplies, it’s time to get an actual hive with the bees. It is recommended to start with 1-3 hives. You could try more, but more hives would take more time and care and if you end up with your bees getting sick, you could deal with all hives getting sick.

While doing your research, learn the difference between honey bees and all other types of bees. You need to be able to identify any bees that could come along and pose a threat to your hive(s). You also need to be able to identify honey bees if you want to get bees from the wild instead of ordering. If you get them from the wild, make sure to get the queen so the worker bees will stay in the hive. There are clips you can get to keep the queen from escaping until they are more established in the hive.

You can go on Youtube and TikTok and search for beekeeping to learn everything you’ll need to know about what to do and where to go.

You will need to find a location far enough away from the house where you won’t be attacked, but also away from creeks and other bodies of water- that way the hive won’t be lost if the pond or creek flood over. Some people recommend to point the hive to the south, but there is nothing proven about bees preferring a certain location.

Some random tips

Make sure to include the queen, not everyone does but the queen helps hold the hive together and helps with reproduction.

Try to keep a place bees can go if they swarm. Swarming is done when hives get too full, so they will either take off or you can have another location so you won’t lose part of the hive.

Check on the bees at least once a week. You don’t need to check daily, but you do want to monitor at least every week. You want to be able to see if the bees get sick, are got by predators or end up with any parasites that could destroy the whole hive. You also want to make sure they’re safe and still there.

It’s best to use a frame but let the bees build the honeycomb. Frames are easily taken out and moved around, so they are better to use.

Bees become stressed easily, they can be harmed by being checked on too much so you do not want to check every day or excessively. Let the bees do what they need to do.

Enjoy- Beekeeping is a hobby. It’s meant to be enjoyed by people who love bees so don’t stress out over it and don’t fear it. A lot of honey bees are mellow when they aren’t feeling threatened.

What tips do you have for people interested in starting to bee keep?

Whole30- Day 3 and 4, yes I “failed”

Today I forgot to eat my eggs with breakfast and since it was heavy on the potatoes, my bloodsugar started to drop.

After eating, I was fine and outside of that minor issue, I felt good on day 3.

Day 4, I found my OCD obsessive nature had me so obsessive, I couldn’t force myself to think about food. OCD was what kept me in the past from doing it again but I sat myself down and decided I am finishing the month low sugar/Paleo.

Since I already found my food sensitivities last time I did it, I have no real need to do it again and having a small desert when you’re stressed out isn’t bad- in moderation.

Paleo limits all the foods I am sensitive to already so tomorrow I’ll officially start a Paleo challenge. I have felt so sick today and with my job, kids and everything, it’s not a good time to feel sick. I’m not going to run off to Starbucks, just switch and see if Paleo feels better. I’m realizing I don’t need extreme restricitive when I already have some healthy foods I can’t eat, or eat much of.

Whole30- Day 2

Today, I woke up a bit late and ended up with 20 minutes to get ready to head to work.

Thanks to that and lack of planning, I had to grab a bowl of fruit and didn’t eat until after I got home.

I ended up only having 1 meal and 2 peices of fruit today but I’m still feeling full. I made a large meal of fried potatoes, onions, peppers, tomatoes and ground beef.

I cooked the whole roll of ground beef and hard boiled a full dozen eggs. Last night, I made a batch of unsweet iced tea so I would have something to drink other than water or coffee. The tea gave me my caffeine fix since I didn’t have time to grab a coffee.

The day has been slow and fast. My day at work went by extremely slow but my day after work sped by. During week 2, I’m planning on cutting fruit for a week to cut all sugar out of my diet. I have my breakfast and lunch planned and am thankfully off work on Monday.

 

Smoking progress- I reset my quit date. I am trying to pace quitting, wanting to still do it but not wanting to do too much all at once and end up failing everything. I am cutting way back.

 

Day 1- Whole30

Things are going well. I’m planning on making some iced unsweet tea when I get home because I’m craving tea and love unsweet

I’m not craving anything outside of unsweet tea and it’s allowed, so its all good. I did get to feeling very hungry but my lunch break was late.

I’m planning on going grocery shopping today after work so ill be able to get what I need.

I’m working up to quitting smoking so I don’t end up failing everything

So far- mood- fine

Cravings- none

Symptoms- brain fog and time standing still

Completed my first day of grocery shopping

It killed my budget but I hope it lasts through the majority of 2-3 weeks.

The meat alone should. Im not feeling great nor bad. Wanting tea and that’s it.

Today is my technical last day but my food has been compliant

I was wrong before. I keep thinking there are only 30 days in the month.

Today, I ate bacon and eggs for breakfast and have a lunch of a plain baked potato, salmon and kale with no butter.

I’m still unsure if ill allow myself one last time indulgence or am going to just start today. Im thinking starting today.

Tomorrow is my cigarette quit day, I have work then a day of making candles and editing my book planned after to keep my hands and mind busy.

Leaving Facebook Personal Challenge

Facebook long lost it’s appeal to me. There were times I would find myself mindlessly scrolling just to try to see new stuff.

I’m strange and I don’t particularly like memes clogging up my feed and the security breeches have had me a bit on edge.

On top of being morally against a lot of what Facebook stands for, I found myself wanting to smoke more when I scrolled through the politics in the feed (I keep my business separated from politics and I had my business name on my profile, so I kept political beliefs to myself) and it gets stressful when you see so much political misinformation posted by people you care about..

It also wasted time. Unless I was talking to people on messenger (I gave them my phone number before deleting), I was wasting time. I still have a business page that is under control from my husband’s account, but I rarely post.

I find Twitter and Instagram are better platforms for writers and creative business owners (IG is owned by Facebook, so I guess it’s not that great but they’re better than Facebook)

I’ve tried to quit a few times but always ran back, so this time I created a brand new email. I didn’t attach the e-mail to anything else and created a password I would never know.

I then changed Facebook to the same password, changed and deleted my email address and set both up to delete.

it may seem extreme but I tested and neither account are able to get revived so it will be deleted by the middle of this coming month.

One week in, I still talk to the same people I messaged. I just talk via text. I also won’t be going back with any other email accounts.

I have checked on my business page and read through news briefly on my husband’s phone, but I don’t take time to read comments nor do I miss the site nearly as much as I thought I would.

 

Anyone else realize they were addicted to Facebook and decide to give it up cold turkey?

How was your experience?

Today is the day before I start Whole30

Technically, its still 7-29, but once I wake up it will be the day before.

I’m getting myself used to unsweetened tea already (I already liked it.)

I’m not feeling nervous, even though I’m going to try to go without tobacco as well. (I’m creating a 30 day no nicotine challenge for myself as well)

I’ll be posting daily updates and working on focusing on other things.

Last week, I gave up Facebook. I now have no way to access it to unset it up for deletion so next month, I’ll be focused on learning new recipes I’ll post on here, writing and learning pottery/sewing clothing.

I’m going to try to switch things up to spend the time i would smoke

Tomorrow I’ll post up my before pics and weight.

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