My son Jax was born at 23 weeks, 3 days gestation. He spent 93 days in the NICU. Luckily (and rather unusually), he did not require any surgeries while he was in the hospital. There were plenty of scares: heart ligation, laser eye surgery for aggressive and severe ROP, hernia repair, and more. But somehow, he skated by. We were very thankful!
But, now the surgeries seem to be piling up. Within the last 13 months, Jax has had five surgeries / procedures under general anesthesia. Thankfully, all of the surgeries were planned in advance and we we able to combine five separate surgeries into three short-term hospital stays.
I thought that a 93 day NICU stay had prepared me for Jax’s planned short-term hospital stays, but I was wrong. The experience was completely different.
Jax’s first surgery occurred when we were only two months out from his NICU stay – emotions were raw. We were terrified and very unprepared. It was a very long night.
I was a little more prepared, both emotionally and logistically, when Jax went in for his second procedure six months later. By the time Jax’s third surgery rolled around a month later, I finally realized that I was so focused on preparing Jax for surgery, that I had been forgetting to prepare myself!
One surgery is one too many for a baby. Sadly, many of us preemie parents know all too well what it’s like to worry about our children while they are under anesthesia. Planning ahead can help reduce anxiety and make the hospital experience less stressful.
Will your child be spending a night in the short stay unit of the hospital? Here are some things that helped us reduce the stress surrounding our child’s hospitalization. (Of course, you will want to follow all of the directions from your hospital and doctor for preparing your child for surgery.)
- Bring a partner. Short stay is not like the NICU. You are expected to be there the entire time with your child (and you’ll want to be.) Arrange for another parent, guardian, or friend to come and relieve you so you can grab a bite to eat or take a walk around the block.
- Recognize your triggers. I knew that seeing my baby hooked up to monitors and hearing the alarms would bring back bad memories from the NICU. I prepared myself ahead of time by imagining the nurse unhooking the monitors when it was time to go home. This positive thinking helped me remember that the monitors were only temporary.
- Be open with the nurses about your triggers. I asked the nurses to turn down the sound on the monitors in the room and turn the screens so I would not see them. They were able to monitor Jax just fine from the nurses station and I did not have the added stress of staring at the monitors. By talking opening with them about my fears and triggers, we were able to work together as a team to make the experience less stressful. [Continue reading]