You were only 28 weeks pregnant when your baby was born. It happened so fast. One moment you were at Target and the next you’re in the hospital. There was a rush of nurses and doctors in and out of your room and all you could think was “is my baby ok?” Your first real glimpse of your baby was in the NICU when they wheeled you by his bedside for a few minutes. He had wires and monitors attached, he was so small, and you were afraid to touch him. “How could this be happening? It’s not time yet.”
The NICU and Trauma
The NICU can leave you traumatized. Even if your baby was only there for 24 hours or went home without long-term complications, the fear, the overwhelm, and the worry that you experienced, causes trauma. You were probably on autopilot or numb when your baby was in the NICU and then when you finally got to take him home and settle into your life at home, the memories and feelings bubble up and spill over, causing problematic symptoms such as anxiety, panic, depression, anger, and guilt.
You worry about the effect the NICU has had on your baby – all that poking, the sounds, the lights – you wonder “will my baby remember that?” “Will we bond? I didn’t get to hold him for over a week and breastfeeding was a nightmare.” If your baby had complications of prematurity then you are living in a place of ‘unknowns’ and waiting to see how things unfold as he develops and this can be a profound feeling of helplessness.
This is not what you imagined! You can’t put into words what It’s like and you feel guilty for wishing he was different but knowing you will love him and care for him no matter what.
Getting the Help You Need
NICU parents need help processing the stressful and traumatic memories so the memories do not continue to have an emotional hold on you now or in the future. The effects of trauma, if not dealt with, can interfere with healthy bonding, parenting, and plain old living. Symptoms such as hyper-vigilance (think about helicopter parents) and anxiety can prevent babies from having an opportunity to try new things for fear they will get hurt. Therapy, and specifically Trauma Therapy, can help you manage your symptoms, process your memories and support your baby’s development without heightened anxiety for yourself or for him.
Working together, I will help you develop the ability to tolerate the yucky memories using evidenced based trauma therapy (EMDR) so you can reprocess those poorly stored memories and turn them into processed memories that won’t cause you mental, emotional and physical pain or suffering. We will work together at your pace so you feel safe enough. As a result of trauma therapy, you will feel calmer, freer, happier and better able to connect to your baby and partner without the yuckiness of those NICU memories getting in the way.
Group therapy is also available in the “After the NICU” support group. You will meet other parents who understand the unique experience of having a baby in the NICU, share thoughts and feelings and find a safe place to connect and know you are not alone.