Hand to Hold's Official Blog: Written by Parents for Parents

Making Your Marriage Work in the NICU

Any marriage can and will change with the birth of a new baby, especially when it’s the first child being born to new parents.  When a baby’s arrival doesn’t goes as planned, though—when a child is born with health issues or simply comes too soon—that’s when preserving a marriage takes a lot more work!

My husband and I had just celebrated our second anniversary two days before our daughter came 14 weeks early.  Those first two years were blissful—I’m not saying that we didn’t fight or have challenges—but we had a lot of time and energy to devote to working through our differences and making up.

The day that Adeline was born, Adam spent several hours at the children’s hospital she had been transferred to, along with both sets of grandparents.  I spent my first twelve postpartum hours alone in a hospital bed listening to other babies cry.  I’ll admit it, I was miffed at my husband and we “had words” that night in my hospital room once we were alone again.

It wasn’t until nearly a year later that I looked at that day through my husband’s eyes.  He had been up with me all night long as I went through labor without any pain medication.  He found out that I was going to deliver the same time I did, only he had both me and the baby to worry about.  He was responsible for calling our employers and family members and registering our newborn at the hospital—which would have been my task if things had been “normal.”  He had to go through NICU orientation alone, get Addie settled in the NICU alone, and then drive back to my hospital and tell me all about it.  He was exhausted, physically and emotionally, and instead of concern and empathy from his wife, he got an argument.

Addie was in the hospital for 135 days, and I had the first 42 of them off from work.  Adam went back to work the Monday after her arrival.  He got up with me every night while I pumped, put in 8 hours at work (plus the 30-minute commute each way), arrived at the hospital mere minutes before shift change, killed an hour with me in the cafeteria, and then helped me get Addie ready for bed every night.

While I struggled with guilt and jealousy, I never once stopped to think about my husband’s emotions.  He’s a pretty stoic guy, usually because he’s more worried about other people and their feelings—and since he wasn’t telling me how he was feeling, I assumed he wasn’t feeling anything.  He felt inhibited by the lack of privacy that comes with a NICU bedside, so he held onto his emotions deep inside.

When Addie was about six months old, home from the hospital and quarantined from the outside world, we realized we had done a poor job keeping up with our marriage during the NICU ordeal.  (And when I say “we,” I mean me.)  I missed so many opportunities to show my husband how much I appreciated him and to hear his side of things.  We went to a few sessions of counseling to air things out and then we got down to restoring our relationship.http://www.preemiebabies101.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/104-450x299.jpg

We started making time for “us” and I encouraged him to get back to something he loves (singing).  We scheduled more of Addie’s appointments at a time when Adam could come along so he could be fully involved.  It’s been about a year now, and things are better than they were when we were newlyweds.  I’ve discovered a whole new side to my husband as he’s come into his role as Dad, and it’s given me even more to love.

Did you struggle with this, too?  What kinds of things did you do to make your marriage work, even in the NICU?


  1. Our son was in the NICU for 44 days. We have 4 other children. Our challenge in our marriage has come after he came home from the hospital. I have had health issues after delivery and our son has terrible reflux. We have been splitting the night shift so we can each get some sleep and it is wearing on us. We don’t even sleep in the same bed. It has been hard to feel like “us” when we are only in survival mode! But we have been married 14 years and will get through this bump in the road like we have the others we have encountered!

  2. Karrianne says:

    i felt like that was one good thing that came from our experience with the NICU. Our two older boys were with grandma a LOT, so me and my husband were alone most of the time. many hours in the car back and forth to the hospital, sitting qui…etly in the NICU together, sitting at home together without any kids to take care of… as hard as it was during that time, it was good for us to have all that alone time to talk and just be together. Normally we’re so busy with the kids that we don’t get much ‘us’ time. I’m so grateful we had each other for support.

  3. I should mention that that was not the way I would have preferred to get alone time with my hubby of course! we missed all our kids terribly! but its good to look for the rays of sunshine during the storm.

  4. The NICU journey is tough there is no doubt about it. Our journey brought us even closer to God than we already were. Because of getting to know Him better our relationship grew stronger with each other too. 160 day in 2 different NICU h…ospitals and a very rocky year at home with the addition of 3 more hospitals (one 9 hours away)added to my son’s card. It was “not what we signed up for” says my husband. But we made it through the roughest of times with 1 critically ill and 2 (3 and 5) at home. And we are a better family, a stronger family, that can do anything if we have each other!

  5. still wondering now how am doing it and gona continue doing so 🙁

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