Previa Alliance Podcast

Eyes of a NICU Social Worker: Navigating Parenthood with Strength and Support

September 11, 2023 Previa Alliance Team Season 1 Episode 71
Previa Alliance Podcast
Eyes of a NICU Social Worker: Navigating Parenthood with Strength and Support
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this inspiring episode, join Sarah and Whitney as they delve into the world of NICU parenting with their special guest, Jody O'Brien, a renowned NICU social worker. Discover the importance of utilizing hospital resources, finding supportive communities, and embracing the challenges of parenthood. With heartfelt stories and practical advice, this episode will empower you to navigate the NICU journey with strength and resilience. Don't miss out on this incredible opportunity to gain valuable insights and download this episode now.

Follow Previa Alliance!
Previa Alliance (@previa.alliance) • Instagram photos and videos
Previa Alliance Podcast (@previapodcast) • Instagram photos and videos

Keep the questions coming by sending them to info@previaalliance.com or DM us on Instagram!

Speaker 1:

Hey guys, welcome back to Preview Alliance Podcasts. This is Sarah and Whitney. Okay, so we are talking in our NICU series and we have a special guest today. Our Preview Alliance moms will know, her, but for our podcast listeners you will meet her. Her name is Jody O'Brien. She is the NICU Guru, social Worker for March of Dimes and where we're at in Alabama. But she's also a personal friend of ours and excited and mama so excited to share with you. Welcome, jody.

Speaker 3:

Hi, thanks for having me. I'm excited to be here.

Speaker 1:

We are excited to chat, so to give our listeners a little synopsis about you and what you do, okay.

Speaker 3:

So I am the NICU Family Support Coordinator for one of the largest NICUs here in Alabama and I work for the March of Dimes, and so the program that I'm involved in is a program March of Dimes created. There are over 70 of us across the United States that do this program for NICU families, and it's just a way to educate families and staff at NICUs and then also just provide support and kind of help families navigate their journey in the NICU, and so it's a really cool opportunity to get to be a part of that journey and help them to work in and out of how to navigate it. It's really, it can be overwhelming, and so I am the only NICU Family Support Coordinator in Alabama, but I would love to see a lot more of us one day, because I think that it is needed in a lot of our NICUs, and I think the NICU that I work in is a little bit unique in that it is private rooms for each family. That's wonderful, which is incredible, and that is not the norm for most of the NICUs in the state.

Speaker 2:

I was about to say that wasn't how it was at the hospitals that I've worked at, or even in a country. There's really not that many hospitals in Birmingham that do that.

Speaker 3:

But I think that there is now.

Speaker 1:

Because usually it's like big open rooms and kind of like their little bassinets, all next to each other with their little incubators. I call them incubators.

Speaker 2:

It's probably not an incubator, but you know, those little things, yeah, isolate.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, it's okay. So that's, and I know that NICU because both my boys were in there. So Will 10 days, james just overnight. But that room personal room.

Speaker 2:

Big deal.

Speaker 1:

Big deal.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

Big deal.

Speaker 3:

And, just like everything, it had it's pros and cons.

Speaker 1:

Exactly.

Speaker 3:

By first hospital that I worked in the NICU. It was an open bay NICU and so I was able to kind of compare. I worked there for six years before I went to this hospital and I see the pros and cons because, of just like what we'll talk about finding your community. The private rooms give you that privacy and just allows you to be there with your baby longer as opposed to the open bay NICU, where there was usually visitation hours.

Speaker 2:

Okay.

Speaker 3:

That's not the case when it's a private room situation, but when it's a big open bay, I mean you are automatically put in a community with other parents because you're all in there together. You can see each other face to face. Whether you mean to or not, you can hear what's going on with their babies 100%. And so that was positives, but then there were also negatives. There would be parents that had babies that were maybe just there for something not as significant, but then they are seeing the trauma of a family that's about to lose their baby, and so those were kind of hard things to navigate. I think that's the positive you get with the individual rooms, but at the same time I mean we still it's like an ICU where one side of the room is just a glass door.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

And you'll see, and parents have talked a lot about the parent across the hall lost their baby today, you know. And then they have to process that because that's and I would assume- that, as a parent, that would make your own anxiety peak of.

Speaker 2:

Could that happen to my baby? Even if my baby came here just for you know? A temp drop after delivery or something that seems minor.

Speaker 1:

Right.

Speaker 2:

It makes those hundreds of thoughts come in and flood, in addition, with postpartum hormones and all of that stuff.

Speaker 3:

Exactly, and you were talking about your son just being there for a night, but for a night it's still hard, it's hard, it's hard. It's a. It can be a very not scary. Well, I mean it can be a very scary place, or just very intimidating place.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, 100% I, everything you were saying. It flashed me back to Will. The oldest was the 10 days, and so he went directly from O? R to NICU because he was 34 weeks, rolled in there, I remember. And then, looking around and it was just, I mean, I didn't do NICU tours, I didn't know. You know what an IQ it looked like and I was like, wow, the room was overwhelming to me I'm a nurse but I was like, okay, I know what this is. And then I know what that is, but it's all mini cause it's a baby, and then that's hard to concept. And then, like you said, I was there for 10 days and I looked across the hallway because I mean, that's what you do. You look around, you know you have nothing and I kept seeing this baby constantly like crash, and all the nurses run in and I would see the dad's face. I'll never forget this dad's face, cause when that would happen he would stand by the window and I could see his face and I would try not to look, you know, and it was just I felt and I couldn't see mom, so I didn't know something was going on with mom, medically or something, but I saw him and it just like you said, I was like oh my gosh, what's, what's it will does that. Or like wills alarm, cause that's the one thing, the alarms, just you hear them constantly and wills would dip, like his auction would dip. It wasn't like extreme dips, but I would hear it and then I would just be like, oh my gosh, that's going to be him. And then I'd go, but all the nurses are over there, but they weren't in my head. I was like what's if they don't come?

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

And then I spiraled, yeah, yeah.

Speaker 3:

Absolutely, and it was so common. So a lot of what I do at the hospital is I have classes for parents to just have 30 minutes to an hour, to just get out of their room and come have some lunch, and we talk about different topics. It can range from caring for yourself in the NICU or what you expect from your baby and your providers, like we really try to educate parents on what to expect.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

And then what they can do, because it can feel like there's just nothing that they can do, and that's not true. There's a lot of things that you can do when your baby's in the NICU. That is helpful, but it can just. You know, it's hard to see those things sometimes. So being able to get out of the room and have a break from the monitors, I mean the sounds of the NICU. You don't always notice it when it's happening. A lot of times it's once parents get home, and then it's true. Ptsd A hundred percent. A beep, a sound. It will startle you back to that place.

Speaker 1:

A smell, yeah the light.

Speaker 2:

Some people can't even sleep without having those noises in the background and they don't understand why. And then it's because they're so used to hearing those things that when they're gone it's like oh, yeah, yeah.

Speaker 3:

They get conditioned to it. And you don't realize how tense your body is in the NICU.

Speaker 1:

Super tense.

Speaker 3:

The thing that we're trying to talk to our parents about is trying to find ways to relax themselves, so we do some like craft classes things like that where they can get out and do something fun because it just gets them to like drop their shoulders and take a deep breath and just relax for a minute, because when you're in that room it can feel very tense.

Speaker 2:

Very tense.

Speaker 3:

Very tense and so, yeah, it's overwhelming.

Speaker 1:

I think even if you know baby's going to be in NICU, versus if you don't know when it ends up, it's still you're going to go through the same battles, so that's okay. So for our listeners who don't have a you in their NICUs, let's break down some things. You're big on finding your community. How can they find their community if this mom's like, okay, I'm in the NICU right now. How do I find a community? What would you tell her? Maybe we can move things a little by ourselves, I guess, or maybe we can move things a little back and forth, pushing them away in that urgency. So it's the2 signs should fit.

Speaker 3:

Well, I would say this. So one thing I hear a lot from parents is you have your family and your friend, your support system, what you would consider your support system before you come into the hospital, but a lot of times they're not able to be there with you. And so a lot of parents will share that. Eventually they get to a point where they don't want to call those people because they don't know what to say. They just want to be supportive. But I hear moms talk about it just feels like a repetitive conversation and it's also. They're just trying to be positive, but you're sitting in the thick of it and you don't see any positives. So you don't need somebody to tell you oh, I'm sure they're going to be fine when they don't hang in there. They don't know, because they don't know what that really looks like.

Speaker 2:

The moms are and dads really need validation of how hard the NICU is In, validation of their feeling and people have a hard time validating that because it's uncomfortable, right?

Speaker 1:

It's uncomfortable to these support people to be like how do I comfort this mom with these babies in the NICU that could die, or has this really rare medical condition, or whatever. I mean, it's just an uncomfortable conversation.

Speaker 2:

It is for sure For everybody. Yeah, and, like you mentioned, you know all these people are like it's okay, I'm sure they're going to be fine, they're going to pull through. And it reminds me so much of the involuntary gas lighting that you see with grief at like a funeral. Well aren't you just glad that they're in a better place and things like that, and it's like we don't necessarily need it sucks right now and it hurts yeah. We need someone to say that's really challenging. Can I bring you some food? Yeah. Do you need a gas gift card? Do you need it A coloring book? Like what can I bring you Right? Like you're not getting a choice of saying no.

Speaker 1:

Right.

Speaker 2:

What do you want me to bring?

Speaker 3:

Yeah Right, that's so true. So we really encourage our parents to. No one's going to understand it, except the people who have been in it.

Speaker 1:

That's right.

Speaker 3:

And so finding opportunities where you know a lot of hospitals not have classes like we do, but they may have an area where you can get refreshments and maybe some seating. Just sit there for a minute, just give yourself some time out of the room and connect when parents come in. I think it can feel overwhelming when you're stressed out already and you're away from your family and you don't know anyone and you're just ready to go home and then you think I am not going to sit down and chit chat with someone.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

That's just not what I'm about, you know right now, because I'm stressed and I'm overwhelmed and I don't want to just, you know, have talk. I don't want to just talk with somebody. But once they start talking and you realize this mom is going through something very similar that I'm going through, and they start comparing stories, it's like that weight starts to lift because they're in some ways they're kind of carrying the burden for each other 100%. They're all in it together. There's some true empathy there. Absolutely, and so I think it's just important to find those areas, maybe in your hospital, where people may gather, parents may gather and just spend a little bit of time to just say hello, how is your baby doing, and that really just starts a conversation. And it may just be five, 10 minutes a day that you're giving yourself out of your room chatting with some other patient or other families. So that's one thing I would say about having the individual room is wonderful, but it also gives you that ability to stay in that room and never come out.

Speaker 1:

I did that. I'll be that. I did that. I was like I'm not coming out of this room, I just like I would be head down If I walked out to the restroom. But then my mom which she was with me, a lot, that dad I mentioned we were being discharged and he was walking in and he was like hey, grandma, and she was like it was weird because, like you know someone, but you've never been like, hey, I'm, I'm there, you know. So it's like it was this thing. And he was like everything okay. And she was like, yeah, we're getting discharged. And he was like that's great, you know, but you could see it like that. He wanted to be discharged, yeah.

Speaker 2:

And he was well in the right.

Speaker 1:

And it's like you had been on this journey together with them, but you've never. It was just this very weird like I was wanting to cry for him, yeah.

Speaker 3:

Absolutely.

Speaker 1:

And it's just hard to explain that to someone, you know, unless you've been in it, right, because it's just like I I don't know, part of me was like I should have never seen the nurses run all the time to that, you know, like part of me is like I shouldn't have seen that for him or for me. But that's the reality of where you are, but that's also the. You can't help it. But it's also the benefit of a community. So I like he don't have to explain anything to us, right.

Speaker 3:

No explanation or, you know, we'll have parents come and there might be a mom that never talks.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

But she comes to every class because she just needs to hear that other people are going through what she's going through and that helps her feel more normal 100%. And she may never talk and no one's going to make her you know, just just show up, Just show up to be there, to give yourself that space to just relax for a minute. And this is normal. And you know we talk about postpartum depression and anxiety. That's a real thing. That happens whether your baby's in the NICU or not, Correct? You're adding on top of that. Such a high level trauma of the NICU and I say trauma and I think that calling it trauma really helps parents.

Speaker 1:

It is not normal or expected for your child to be and essentially, I see you and you, no matter what they're there for. You're supposed to be, that baby's supposed to be with you on you, leaving with you. Correct, right. So the loss of that experience.

Speaker 2:

It's a grief.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and it's traumatic, and you see things you just should not see. You feel things you should not feel as a mom.

Speaker 3:

Right, and for our parents that have premature babies for a lot of them, the very premature, there's a whole week at the beginning of their life where they don't even get to hold their baby. What is it?

Speaker 1:

called the Golden Week the Golden Week and I remember walking through and seeing those signs and I asked our nurse, which I will say NICU nurses are godsend.

Speaker 3:

For sure.

Speaker 2:

They're godsend, they're 100%, do you have? To have a special calling to be a. Yes, oh my God, they were just.

Speaker 3:

They are incredible people.

Speaker 1:

They just I mean, as are you, I mean, my gosh, they're the people who are in the NICU Godsend here. But I remember asking, I said what's going on? And she's like only they can only touch at, like certain times, like it's like coordinated care, right?

Speaker 3:

They call it cluster care. So anything that has to happen with that baby that day, they try to do it within the same time, as long as it's not going to be too lengthy, or they may space it out, but they just try to cluster any touching. It's all related to the development in their brain and keeping their brains, their heads, stable, because when you're premature there's a higher risk of brain bleeds. So the more we can keep them still and not moving, then the more likely they are to have everything kind of I'm not medical, but just have everything kind of close up like it needs to develop, like it needs to. We try to keep them as still as we can.

Speaker 2:

Now, how early of a preemie are we talking? Are we talking even something like a 35, 36 week baby? Are we talking more of like our 24, 25 to 27 weekers?

Speaker 1:

What's that? You guys just did like a 20.

Speaker 3:

It was really really young so the earliest we will take 22 weeks. Yeah, that's incredible, because when I did medical social worker 24 was your point of viability.

Speaker 2:

Even when I was pregnant with my youngest just three years ago, 24 weeks was the point of viability, yeah.

Speaker 1:

And I think, right around what I had will, One of the physicians told me he was like we just started, it was 23 and he was like I think we're going to go to 22. Yeah, I was like whoa.

Speaker 3:

That's a big deal and I think that a lot of that goes to the Golden Week protocols and learning, studying, that we keep them still as still as possible low light, low stimulation, that it gives their bodies time to adjust to being out of the womb and that that gives us better outcomes.

Speaker 1:

So those moms are going to be in the NICU for months.

Speaker 3:

And we have babies that are in the NICU for their first birthday, and there's a lot of things that can go into that.

Speaker 1:

It's not necessarily just the 22 weeks that are there for that.

Speaker 3:

It just depends on what happens and how their bodies develop. But to talk about the Golden Week protocol, I believe it's 28 weeks or younger. They will be on the Golden Week protocol and that's hard.

Speaker 2:

So if a mama delivers at 32, 33 weeks, they may not have all of those restrictions Right.

Speaker 3:

Exactly, yeah, if you're 28 weeks or more, then you won't have that protocol, and it really just depends on your baby. You know, that's true, you could be on the ventilator, but that doesn't mean you can't hold your baby.

Speaker 1:

I think that's important to touch on is like holding your baby and I think that scared me. Will was never on a ventilator, he was just on a little face mask, but I was scared to death to hold him.

Speaker 3:

All the cords it's so intimidating it is. It's so intimidating and I think that you're already in an environment you're not comfortable with, and then you're trying to decide okay, what can I do versus what am I not allowed to do? And of course your bedside nurse will kind of tell you what they're comfortable with you doing, what they're not comfortable with you doing. But a lot of times there is this idea that you can't touch your baby.

Speaker 1:

I thought that I mean my husband, who's a physician, he saw Will for the first time and I think they said hey, dad, you want to hold him? He goes. I don't think I can. And he was like hey, will just fit in like his hand. And he was just like you know, because the nurses are so good at like, just here, you go with you know and you're just like they're not scared? No, but they know what they're doing, they're used to it and I was like, please don't leave me, stay right here for the first, like please don't move yeah.

Speaker 2:

I know I need you, I need you right here.

Speaker 1:

But then I thought you know, that's just like not like. That loss of like, that's not what you're supposed to do with your baby.

Speaker 3:

Have to deal with being afraid of touching your baby. So that's what I love about our hospital is that skin to skin.

Speaker 1:

Uh-huh here.

Speaker 3:

Skin to skin. Some people call it kangaroo care. The benefits of skin to skin for moms and dads are huge. That is not something that people talk about a lot. No because if you have a full term baby, you may or may not ever do skin to skin right it is great for full term babies. By the way, right absolutely right, but it has some Significant benefits for premies and for their parents doing skin to skin and like for dad's example. If we can get a dad to be okay with letting us put the baby on their chest, that is when they become more comfortable. Yeah, to the weight of the baby. They get used to the feel of their baby because preemie babies feel different. They do your skin feels different, it looks different and of course they are tiny, so they weigh Hardly. Nothing is skin, looks like transparent, almost almost.

Speaker 1:

And that's what's hard, because no one, I didn't. I was like, oh no.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, you know, no one prep me for that no one told me.

Speaker 1:

And that's what something I love that you're doing is like, if you know, babies will be the nikkyu, prepping as much as you can for these moms. Because, like, just like you go in for a prep for a surgery, right, like you need to know what that's gonna be like and the outcomes, and because, yeah, I was like, oh my gosh, it's, why is his skin look like this? And like it was just like hangy.

Speaker 3:

The skin was like hangy and I was like oh no, yeah, oh no, takes them a while to fill that because he didn't have no fat. He didn't have no fat and their little faces are kind of caved in. You know they don't get there's little chubby cheeks, they get bigger they're not as filled out, right right, and that makes them look very fragile.

Speaker 1:

You're scared.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, you are, and as a parent too. Like you, don't always know what to ask no, so that's another reason that we try to just give as much information as possible, because you don't always know what to ask.

Speaker 1:

No, it's intimidating.

Speaker 3:

Yes, and when you're in the medical field, doctors don't always know what to.

Speaker 1:

They're not gonna tell you all the little details. They're coming in and hitting the high points like they're talking about the most important part.

Speaker 3:

They are and sometimes they're talking in their medical lingo big words fast. But one thing I want parents to hear that are listening to the podcast is it is completely okay to ask a doctor. To restate something. Yeah explain something a little more. Please, please, please. It is your Right and responsibility as that baby's parent to understand what's going on. Please don't be intimidated to ask a doctor to explain something further, because you need to know what's happening.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

Not only for your own. Just yeah anxiety, but just because you need to understand. Even though these are baby doctors and they know exactly what they're doing, as a parent, you're still going to advocate for your baby 100 and so having a good understanding of what's going on with them Is going to help. You know how to advocate better, and I will say this too for parents, and we tell them all the time you know your baby better than we do. It doesn't matter that. They've been in this hospital since the day they were born. You are at the bedside. You know your baby and so if you see something that doesn't seem right, speak up, tell someone. If you don't feel like you're being heard, go to the next person, find a Social worker in the hospital find a nurse manager or assistant nurse, manager or you know the PCT who yes somebody. Hey, this doesn't.

Speaker 2:

I'm not feeling right about this.

Speaker 3:

Trust your mama and daddy gut and speak up, because it may just be that things need to be explained better or it could be something. Yeah, maybe we're missing and. I have for sure seen situations where parents have said I think something's not right, whatever it be. Maybe the way that they're breathing, I think there might be an issue, or the way that they're feeding and they're spitting up at certain times. These are just examples. Something's not right, but on paper everything looks fine. But something is just not right and I've had nurses be the advocates for their moms and say hey, mom's saying that she's not sure about this. Maybe we should look at it further, and when we do, we find something that yeah we didn't realize 100 and so. You know, thankfully that you know most of our doctors want to partner with the parents. They realize that the care of your baby is not just the doctors and the nurses.

Speaker 2:

It is all of you, it's a team, effort 100%.

Speaker 1:

I know what I personally did is some tips. That helped me was I kept a notebook.

Speaker 3:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

I kept a notebook and I read right down who our team was, who our doctor was, who the nurses was, and I almost did it like a day journal and I'd be like, okay, jody came by, talked to her, whitney came by, talked to her. We went down to this level of oxygen, we whatever that helped me feel in control. And then anybody that came into the room, I would say, hi, I'm sarah will's mom and I'd want them to introduce themselves to me. Correct, because that really irritated me. If you just came in and out and acknowledged me, yes, and that I'm not gonna lie.

Speaker 3:

That's a problem, that, yeah, and in any time that I Talk with graduate parents from the NICU because that's one thing I try to do is stay regularly connected with parents that have now left the NICU- and to get their feedback, because that's sometimes. You don't process everything till you leave.

Speaker 1:

Oh yes, it hits you and you're living in fight or flight in the NICU it really hits you and you're just well. You also feel like it's weird, even though I'm a nurse, like I had a physician do this with will. Come in, start just evaluating will didn't speak to me, no, let's fix in a leave. And I was like whoa, whoa, whoa, uh-uh, yeah, but I don't think that physician Was mal intent. No, no, no, just in out and like they get an, almost like automatic they do. And there's like okay, I'm gonna assess this child and go, this child and its status quoted them when it's life changing to you, right. So, and they were like oh, I'm sorry, blah, blah, blah. And I'm like okay, we're not doing that again.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, but there's nothing wrong with stating that now to your physician and say I'd like for you to talk to me for a minute Because they can do rounds in the morning and sometimes they don't even step into the room.

Speaker 1:

Oh, now outside of the room and that I did not understand and I was trying to change, but it's definitely a practice that happens and I didn't like it because it felt like I was in this little room and they were talking about me and I couldn't hear it. Correct, which it was you know, and I was like, hey, somebody come in here, give me something, Right, and I'm like my husband's like they probably just think you're crazy. I'm like I don't care, Let them think I'm crazy, let them think. Yeah, this is my baby, this is my baby, and then asking what you can do, like Google it or ask and say ask your nurse. Hey, they said my child may have this going on. Learn about it Right. Get asked for resources.

Speaker 3:

And I think keeping the notebook is number one.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

That's a huge thing you can do, for sure is to, just for your own sanity, remember who you've talked to, because if your baby has multiple things going on, you may have different specialties coming in but those doctors aren't going to come in every time and say I'm Dr, so is no pulmonology. I mean they may just, like you said, come in and start talking.

Speaker 1:

And they assume you realize, hey, that's Whitney from pulmonology, exactly. And you're like I haven't slept. Yeah Right, I don't know where I'm at.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

I don't remember your name.

Speaker 2:

I don't know where you're here for Information overload too, because you are seeing so many nurses. You are seeing so many different specialties of doctors. You might be seeing a lactation nurse as well. Trying to figure out all of that and recovering from delivery Right.

Speaker 1:

And they have shifts. It is a lot to process. These people have shifts too and like, if you are there for months, residents or fellows, they rotate every month. So you could literally have new people and you're like I'm not going crazy, these are just new people, right.

Speaker 3:

And that's why I think the notebook is so important, not so much to remember the people, but to remember what's being said yeah, yes. Because the people will change especially like in our hospital as a teaching hospital. So, like you said, residents are going to be rotating. Different residents are going to come back at any point in the day and update you on certain things. So focus on the information that they're giving and not so much who you're talking to. And that's hard because you get different personalities.

Speaker 1:

And some you're going to clash with and some you're going to love.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah. But I like the idea of the notebook because, let's say, you do get any resident or fellow in there and they're kind of looking at them and you say, well, let me tell you the history and you've got your notebook there of saying, well, two weeks ago we had this respiratory issue come up, right, or we had this GI issue occur, or whatever the case is, and you can give them that snapshot real fast, much faster than really they can find it in the charge, because they're starting at scratch.

Speaker 1:

I mean, I mean they're starting from a chart right and you know your child, you having your child's history, just like we all know our own medical history to advocate for ourselves Like that's a power move, yeah.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

That's how you get control.

Speaker 2:

Yes, yeah, for sure, controlling as best you can, as much, controlling the controllable.

Speaker 1:

And I loved how you say get outside, because that was something I had to do. I was forced.

Speaker 3:

You do have to, you have to. That's the part of caring for yourself.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

Nobody is meant to be in a little room with the lights dimmed 24 seven.

Speaker 1:

No.

Speaker 3:

We've got to get out. You've got to have a routine. That's a big part. Have a routine that every day I'm going to get up, I'm going to take a quick shower or at least fix my hair, because we all know mommas don't shower every day.

Speaker 1:

No, you'll have to shower. No, we don't. We don't wash our hairs either. You did not wash my hair. We're good.

Speaker 2:

My two-year-old would not let me shower this morning. So I feel that in my soul.

Speaker 1:

Well, you look a lot better than if I wasn't able to shower.

Speaker 2:

I was going to say that right now Look lots of concealer and dry shampoo today.

Speaker 3:

I thought that too Gay for dry shampoo.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

That's what you should deserve A. Nobel Prize. Nobel Prize, Prize for our smallest oh yes, yeah.

Speaker 3:

So having a routine is important, making sure that you're eating regularly and drinking regularly. So you may drink and you may have healthy habits at home, but when you're away from home, you find yourself having the not so healthy habits, because 100% vending machine is easier, or cafeteria, or you're stressing, you're tired, so you're drinking more caffeine. Be aware of that and give yourself a good balance of some healthy foods and drinks, and then also let yourself have a mountain dew in your jam. So like, let yourself have a mountain dew or let yourself have some chicken fingers, but also remember what you're putting in your body, because that is going to affect your how you feel physically and mentally.

Speaker 1:

Mentally is a huge thing. It's a challenge, oh yeah. So we're telling you keep your notebook. We're telling you take that break. We're telling you you know your support system that you're used to. They may not say the things that you need to hear, and it's not their fault, it's not your fault, right, find the people who's been there in that, yeah right. Or, I love Whitney's. Go to voice journaling, yeah, blending out. So then when you do have to talk to someone because they're going to ask, right, that's just what people are going to hey, how's the baby? What's going on? And you are like you want to like scream about it or you're like it's been a really tough day. You want to have already kind of let that version of your experience reaction out and to say you know, we had a rough day. Yeah, we didn't get the news we wanted.

Speaker 3:

We didn't get the news we wanted.

Speaker 1:

Discharged, delayed I or you just had, like you know, because these moms you got them returning leave, right, If they get it Right, Correct, and they go back to work or they can't go, whatever If they get it, you know, and that's that's the toughest thing for people to be like, they kind of get lost in. Well I've, I'm in the NICU, but I'm not home with my baby when my baby's home, because now it's just that hard balance and people don't understand that, Correct.

Speaker 3:

And also a lot of our families have other children. So it's like, what do you do?

Speaker 1:

You know you go back. You gotta be careful. You gotta be careful for your other kids.

Speaker 3:

You cannot be in the NICU 24 seven with your baby, and that is okay. That needs to be said. You're not a bad parent.

Speaker 2:

You are not a bad parent.

Speaker 3:

You have the ability to call and check on your baby right now and check on your baby regularly. You're not getting on the nurses' nerves by calling and checking in, but we have parents that have to go back to work. We have moms that choose to go back to work to save their maternity leave.

Speaker 1:

To be home when the baby's home and the baby comes home.

Speaker 3:

And that is okay too, and I think that if you have the opportunity to be there every day, that's wonderful, but if you have to just come and visit in the evenings or on the weekends, make your time there more about bonding with your baby than anything else.

Speaker 1:

Do your skin to skin.

Speaker 3:

I always suggest having books that you can read to your baby. It doesn't have to be nursery rhyme books and in little I mean board books are great. It can be a book you like, but reading to your baby. There have been studies that have shown the benefits of early literacy in the NICU.

Speaker 1:

And so we encourage our parents to sit beside their isolate.

Speaker 3:

read to their baby, sing to their baby. That is so, so important and that is something that you can do for your baby's development. I love that Is to do that, and so make that part of your daily routine. Maybe you have a nighttime book that you read and already start a nighttime routine with your baby. It can feel like everything you dreamt was going to be, but when you were going to have your baby has been taken away when you get to the NICU.

Speaker 1:

But it doesn't have to be that way completely.

Speaker 3:

Because you can start special moments with your baby every day and routines with your baby every day that you continue when you get home, and so the best that you can try to think about those things your baby needs to hear your voice. They need to smell you. They need to feel your skin. But if you only come and do that on the weekend, that is wonderful. Still, you're still doing it what you need to do you're being a mama and daddy at home with your other kids. Because life doesn't stop for it, and then you're being a mama daddy and the NICU on the weekends, when you can be there. So, yeah, it doesn't make you any less of a parent if you're not there every single day, but make that time count for sure, I love that. Put your phone down. That's a big thing.

Speaker 1:

Don't. And you don't have to video everybody and say let's look at the baby. Like that can be your time, like that is okay. You can take some pictures and text it out and say you know what my time is with them and the NICU and as much as you want to see it, we're not video chatting ever. Five minutes we can, we're, that's okay. That's a healthy boundary, yes, boundaries.

Speaker 2:

And you have a question. I had a weird idea pop up, because that's how I operate.

Speaker 3:

That's what I do.

Speaker 2:

So could someone potentially with like an old iPhone, iPad, whatever do good morning routines or bedtime routines and voice record it in a nurse plate for the baby?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, they could?

Speaker 2:

That would be great. You know, if a parent isn't able to get up there during the week and only can do the weekends. Is that a way that? The baby could still hear parents voices on a consistent, more daily basis.

Speaker 3:

So that's a great I'm glad you brought that up. So it's actually become a point of care in most hospitals to have iPads available for parents to FaceTime with their baby and the NICU.

Speaker 1:

Oh God, I love that.

Speaker 3:

Or I don't know how, whatever they use, zoom different ways like that. So if you're not able to be with your baby, your bedside nurse will have access to an iPad where you can see them, you can talk to them, they can hear you, and so we definitely have parents that every night they call and them and the siblings read a night.

Speaker 1:

Oh, I love that with the sibling. That's wonderful.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, and that's. I would like to add that to when you have other kids and your babies in the NICU, make them as much a part of it as you can. You know, for most hospitals there's a period of time where maybe siblings can't come on the unit. I was thinking age, it's flu season yeah. You can bring your child to the. NICU now with you to see the baby. But even if you couldn't because of school or travel or whatever, let them call and talk to the baby and if they can read, let them read a story to the baby. Something like that is really good. But yeah, you could definitely record something that we ask the nurse to play at night and if you get to know your nurses and connect with them a lot of times our nurses have family phone numbers and they ain't sure.

Speaker 1:

I'm not saying that all would but you can you form really personal relationships with these nurses? And on the nurses point, you can say I care for this person to be my child's primary nurse. That's a request you can make. They can see they can accommodate it. Some you ain't going to mess with you can say I really would prefer them not to be in rotation. If that's possible, that's OK too. It's OK. If you don't like a way a provider does something to say, I'd like to get a second opinion. Definitely you still have no limitations, but you feel like you're so limited and helpless, but you're not.

Speaker 3:

If you have ever had any loved one in the hospital at any time, you have learned that we have to advocate for ourselves in the medical world, and that's not to say anything negative about the medical profession, it's just reality. And so you are always going to be the one. You are one person to hundreds of patients that they see, but that's the only doctor you're talking to, so for you, that person is real important to you because it's your only doctor I'm seeing and I need you to hear me and what my concerns are. And so just remember that that you have to advocate for yourself and for your patient, If that's your baby, if that's your husband and that's your, whoever your loved one.

Speaker 1:

So I love that. I know our hospital is very blessed to have you and have this program and our goal is just so if you, these mommies or you're, if you're in the NICU and you don't have and some of these things we've talked about, the NICU you work at is forget what level it is, but it's like when the high level four. So it is a lot of sick babies get flown in. It's kind of just the place in Alabama that the NICU is. So if you're in a smaller NICU like this, you may not have as many resources but you will always still be able to keep your notepad, take your breaks, advocate research, form those relationships with who the care team is.

Speaker 3:

Give yourself special time with your baby, skin to skin time, time that's just you and your baby, because sometimes you can get so caught up in knowing all the medical and figuring out what needs to happen that you forget to just still find time to enjoy your baby.

Speaker 1:

And that was something someone had to say to me, because I was very like, OK, if he weans off this oxygen, we can do this, we can get home and like pause. And so there's this study it's somewhere in Africa, maybe that there's this tribe and how they've had these great outcomes with the preemie babies. These mommies just take them and literally skin to skin, that baby stays on her chest like wraps. It stays and like they are having great outcomes and like 20 something weekers, yeah, and it's just sold to kangaroo care. So I found that and so that, to my mind, I was like that is certain. I was like oxygen, brain development, heart, everything, everything. And I was like, wow, this is so instinctual, like to have your baby, but it literally was changing how he was growing.

Speaker 3:

For sure. God made our bodies to have babies and to also take care of those babies.

Speaker 1:

100%, that was a big moment for me. I was like that's all you need, sarah. It's like literally, hold him Now. I'm not saying medicines and all that doesn't have a place, but I'm just saying like that was something I could do to change something to me.

Speaker 3:

And for preemie moms. Pumping is another big thing. Yes, you will find it will become a source of, a source of necessity your baby needs that milk. But it also can be a big source of mental stress.

Speaker 1:

Oh yeah, oh, it definitely impacted me negatively, yeah, mentally.

Speaker 3:

And so finding that routine that we talked about is a really big thing. But, also doing skin to skin helps to produce milk better.

Speaker 1:

It does.

Speaker 3:

If you're struggling with getting your milk to come in or to get a good milk supply, talk with your lactation specialist. But doing skin to skin also helps with that and it helps your baby get comfortable with the potential to breastfeed one day. That's what you choose to do, and we talk about that a lot. I think for moms, they feel like all I can do is try to produce milk, which is not true. We've talked about all the other things you can do, but there is a lot of pressure on it. There is a lot of pressure on it and connection with each other, because it is hard, it's hard. Breastfeeding, pumping, is hard in general, and then you add on that your baby's in the nikkis, so you're not always getting to just put your baby to breast and your baby can be super early in your body and even ready to make milk out, or you can have trauma surgery.

Speaker 1:

It's like me that my body was like whoa, whoa yeah. Not doing that right now Not doing it.

Speaker 3:

We have to heal before we produce. You almost died.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, we're not worried about lactating right now. That was what my body was saying, and no one said that to me, but I will say what I did. Which is great is I took advantage of the hospital resources, so I got to use the hospital grade pump.

Speaker 3:

Yes, that's a every bed fight Big deal.

Speaker 1:

So get that and say, hey, I asked anything I was concerned about. They brought a resource into me. But you just have to ask and say, well, I'm here, yeah, you have to ask and I tell you I mean, that's just if we all had surgery when in the random hospital we're like, OK, we have X, Y and Z we need to take care of too, Get it done while you're in the hospital, Make it work for you.

Speaker 3:

And every hospital has lactation specialists. I call those ladies every day. Yes, because I struggled with my body.

Speaker 1:

I had medical issues.

Speaker 3:

My body did not want to bring in any milk. My son spent a couple of nights in the NICU and of course we got to go home when I got home. So I cannot say that I have been through what so many of our other parents have, but my body did not want to produce milk and so I called them all the time, and that's OK.

Speaker 1:

They were wonderful.

Speaker 3:

They helped me. They encouraged me, but they also realistically helped me say OK, your body might not do it.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

And that's OK too.

Speaker 1:

And you're not a failure.

Speaker 3:

You're coming to a country that has wonderful formula that can help your baby. Your baby will still be fed.

Speaker 1:

Your baby is fine to this day.

Speaker 3:

And hear me say this Mama's out there in the NICU trying to pump. If you're not able to get as much milk as your baby needs, your baby will still be fed 100%.

Speaker 1:

They will still be taking care of.

Speaker 3:

They will still have wonderful outcomes. Please don't hear anyone say that the only way your baby's going to thrive is just from breast milk. No it's wonderful and gives lots of great things to your baby, but it is not the end-all be all and the medical world, because thankfully we do live in a country that has formula and donor breast milk and all of those things.

Speaker 1:

Yes, ask about donor breast milk if that's important to you, or just use your resources. Don't feel like that's it, like I'm glad you said that it's not the end-all to be all.

Speaker 3:

It is not.

Speaker 1:

For your baby, your physical, your mental health, your physical health. It is not worth it at the end of the day, yeah.

Speaker 3:

And I don't know if I read the same article that you did at Orphus was a different one. But I know that there are certain countries. They don't have isolates.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

And so the mom is in a hospital bed with their baby on top of them 24-7, while they're being cared for in the new setting, because they're not isolates and they are the isolates.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, this was I mean, it was just like because I thought about that, I'm like what do these third world countries do? Like, let's go back to what these women are doing. That's working.

Speaker 3:

I know, and isn't it funny how there's become this culture of if you hold your baby too much, you're spoiling?

Speaker 1:

me.

Speaker 3:

It's like who came?

Speaker 1:

up with that. Aunt Brenda, aunt Brenda, doug, aunt Brenda is our Karen, so we don't talk to her Aunt.

Speaker 3:

Brenda probably had lots of children and was overwhelmed and stressed and probably had mental health that hadn't been addressed. So she's like I can't touch you anymore.

Speaker 1:

I cannot be touched. When I get that, too, I get out of it. We all do yeah, we all do that.

Speaker 3:

But you're not going to spoil your nikkyu baby.

Speaker 2:

No, I don't leave them too much.

Speaker 3:

You're not going to spoil a baby, all by holding them too much.

Speaker 1:

No Hold your baby.

Speaker 3:

Do skin to skin, do skin to skin. That's all I can say.

Speaker 2:

We love that it's important If you take anything away from this episode.

Speaker 3:

If you skin to skin to skin, we love that If you skin to skin and give yourself special time with your baby, and just give yourself a break.

Speaker 2:

Yes.

Speaker 1:

You did nothing to cause this.

Speaker 2:

You're not a bad parent.

Speaker 1:

Not a failure.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely not.

Speaker 1:

And you will take it day by day, right, hour by hour, right.

Speaker 3:

Do not compare to the people across the hall.

Speaker 1:

No, or someone you see on Instagram that's like did the nikkyu experience? Or I think it's hard, especially like twins, triplets, quadruples, all those you look at those moms on Instagram. Or health challenge moms, right, like that's the medical mamas that they post about it and they're saying this and it's easy because you want to feel seen and got. But their journey is their journey, your journey is yours.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, right, and it's not always going to lie Every baby is different Yep, so we can have moms that both deliver 28 week babies, and one could go home on oxygen for a while and need a feeding tube, and one could go home and not have to have any of that. And that doesn't mean that anybody did anything wrong, or that is just. Every baby's journey is different, and so try not to compare, but just know that, regardless of how it looks, your community is going to be found in other parents that are going through that same thing. And another thing I will share is there are good Facebook groups out there. There's one for Alabama, that's preemie love of Alabama. OK, and that's a wonderful group to connect with other parents who have had babies in the hospital. So find those types of groups for especially if you're in a smaller hospital that maybe doesn't have classes and things like that, forums like that. The Marjah Dimes has an app it's called Compass and it's a great resource that has it actually has like a breastfeeding tracker you can time how long you pump, tie, how long you breastfeed. Yeah, that's really cool.

Speaker 1:

And Marjah Dimes is just great to plug in anyways, and you find it in your state. We're local here so we're great to have you all just here. But statewide, go to your guys Did you guys's walks are great ways to meet fellow moms.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, that's a great way to get connected and meet people, and they have Facebook pages. Every state. Marjah Dimes has a Facebook page. They have a place where you can share your story and you can read other families' stories. Oh, I like that so that's a really great place to just be encouraged and see that you're not alone. You're not alone, you always got.

Speaker 1:

You've got us. Turn us on every week. Listen to us. We'll give you the things that's right. We always ask our guests before they leave. This is. You can answer this however you wish. What is one thing you wish you would have known about motherhood before your mom?

Speaker 2:

I don't know. Quite the loaded question.

Speaker 1:

It's a loaded question and we have got all sorts of answers before, oh, absolutely. There's no right or wrong.

Speaker 3:

No, I know my answer Because I've said it several times today and it came from a personal place.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

Enjoy your baby.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

Don't get bogged down in doing all the right things and making sure you don't drive yourself crazy trying to pump and feed and bedtimes and routines. And all of those things are great and wonderful and important for your baby, but if it's taking away the joy that you have when you're spending time with your baby, it's not worth it.

Speaker 2:

It's not worth it.

Speaker 3:

So when you're with your baby, making about you and that baby, we have parents with twins. This has been the month of triplets.

Speaker 2:

Oh wow, Really In our hospital for sure. Oh, God bless those parents.

Speaker 3:

Several sets of quads this week we are seeing lots of multiples. Oh, I have to breathe through that.

Speaker 2:

I'm kind of anxious Just thinking about that.

Speaker 1:

God bless those mamas.

Speaker 3:

These are wonderful mamas and daddies coming in with these babies, though. And they are completely rocking it, but you give yourself special time with each of those babies.

Speaker 2:

Yes.

Speaker 3:

You're made to do it. Yeah, you're made to do it, so remind yourself of that when it gets really hard. I had to tell myself I was made to do this.

Speaker 2:

I know it feels overwhelming right now, and you were made for your son and he was made for you Right. I love that and so trust that I love that.

Speaker 1:

Yes, ok, guys, it's great. Till next time, that's all right.

Speaker 2:

See ya, all right.

Speaker 1:

Maternal mental health is as important as physical health. The Previous Alliance podcast was created for and by moms dealing with postpartum depression and all its variables, like anxiety, anger and even apathy. Hosted by CEO founder Sarah Parkers and licensed clinical social worker Whitney Gay, each episode focuses on specific issues relevant to pregnancy and postpartum. Join us and hear how other moms have overcome mental health challenges, as well as access tips and suggestions on dealing with your own challenges as moms. You can also browse our podcast library and listen to previous episodes at any time. Please know you're not alone on this journey. We're here to help.

Navigating the NICU Journey
Importance of Support in the NICU
Premature Baby Care and Skin-to-Skin
Tips for Navigating the NICU Journey
Parenting Tips for NICU Babies
Support and Encouragement for NICU Parents
Supporting Moms' Mental Health With Podcast