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15 thoughts a NICU mom has that she can’t always tell you

Dear Mama,

I know how you feel. You suddenly find yourself looking into that clear glass case holding your tiny newborn in the NICU, wondering, How did this happen?

You are not alone. It happened to me, too. I was unprepared and in a state of shock.

Here are some of the thoughts I had in the days that followed having my premature baby.

1. This was not part of my plan.

My first son was born on time and I clearly remember walking the halls of the hospital, passing by the NICU and shuddering at the thought of my baby being in there. It was a thought that quickly passed—because, of course, I would never have to worry about having a NICU baby. My deliveries would be easy and end in healthy babies.

2. Is this my fault?

I asked myself this question often. Did I have him early because I danced in my room the night before my placental abruption? Did I eat too much gluten? Did I miss a clue? The list of self judgement goes on.

The answer is, no. It was not my fault and it is not your fault either. You did nothing wrong.

One in ten babies a year in the U.S. is born prematurely and although many medical advancements have been made to save babies born early, the numbers of babies born prematurely in the U.S. have unfortunately increased in the last year. Much more research needs to be done, and usually the doctors will not be able to tell you exactly why this happened to you.

3. I’m scared.

This is to be expected. It is a terrifying experience and I am truly sorry that you have to endure this. You will get through it, I promise.

4. I’m angry.

I understand how you feel. You feel like everyone else outside of the NICU on the labor and delivery floor is smiling and laughing and taking home their healthy newborn. An overwhelming feeling of anger and helplessness can take over when we feel powerless and afraid. I remember constantly flipping between feeling terrified and angry that this happened.

5. Will my baby live?

My biggest fear was that I would lose my precious angel. From the second you are told you will have your baby early, you will have to deal with a roller coaster of emotions—the scariest being that you don’t know what to expect.

All I can say is, I have bonded with many NICU mamas since our experience, and most of them (like myself) walked out of the hospital with a healthy miracle baby. The doctors and nurses in the NICU are incredible and your baby is in good hands.

6. I detest the NICU.

I love the NICU now, but didn’t always. The NICU is scary and no one will blame you for not loving this experience. The sounds of alarms and ventilators may haunt you for months after.

You did not want your baby to end up here and might even hate the NICU, since you don’t know how your baby’s story will end. But I can assure you that you will love at least one nurse or doctor who ends up caring for, loving and nurturing your baby back to health. And years after, you will remember that more than anything else.

7. I want to fast forward time.

I dreamt of the day my baby would be three and the NICU would be a distant memory.

I’m there now. You will be too.

8. I am grateful.

Of course anger, sadness and fear are the common emotions you will feel when experiencing something so traumatic. But I was also surprised by how happy and grateful I felt.

I was grateful for every day that my boy was alive.

I was grateful for the time I had snuggling him in the NICU.

I was grateful for the NICU mama friends I made in the pumping room who I still call friends today.

I was grateful for the extraordinary doctors and nurses who knew how to care for my child and give him the strength he needed.

And mostly I was grateful for my baby, who became my little hero.

9. I wish someone would tell me that it’s going to be okay.

Everything will be okay.

This is one of the hardest times you will ever face, but healing from trauma can lead to strength and joy.

10. What about me?

I need to be taken care of. Even something as simple as a mani-pedi, massage, bowl of ice cream, trashy magazines, food deliveries—absolutely anything to feel loved and supported. Don’t be afraid to ask for the help you need and deserve.

You’re scared and need five minutes to not think about the fact that your baby is in the NICU. Send this article to your family and friends and let them know that you need support.

11. At least I can sleep.

Okay, this experience is awful but on the bright side, you can sleep through the night while your baby is being cared for in the hospital. Of course you would rather that he could be with you, but you really do need all the rest you can get right now so your body and mind can heal from your unexpected birth experience.

12. All I do is pump.

I know. The pump is your BFF right now. It may feel like all you do is pump when you’re not with your baby.

Pump as often as you can! At some point sooner than you realize, they will start eating ferociously and it feels so good to have that milk stored up for them.

13. My baby is my hero.

I read a quote once about being a parent of a preemie that summed it up perfectly.

“Some days I am very uncertain if I was made for this. Then I remember, you were made just for me. If you can do it, than there is no need to have my head down.”

14. I’m stronger than I thought.


15. I will never, ever be the same.

You’ve got this, mama. ?

With love,

A survivor and fellow NICU mama

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Parents in New Jersey will soon get more money and more time for parental leave after welcoming a baby.

This week New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed off on legislation that extends New Jersey's paid family leave from six weeks to 12.

It also increases the benefit cap from 53% of the average weekly wage to 70%, meaning the maximum benefit for a parent on family leave will be $860 a week, up from $650.

It might not seem like a huge difference, but by raising the benefit from two-thirds of a parent's pay to 85%, lawmakers in New Jersey are hoping to encourage more parents to actually take leave, which is good for the parents, their baby and their family. "Especially for that new mom and dad, we know that more time spent bonding with a child can lead to a better long-term outcome for that child," Murphy said at a press conference this week.

The law will also make it easier for people to take time off when a family member is sick.

Because NJ's paid leave is funded through payroll deductions, workers could see an increase in those deductions, but Murphy is betting that workers and businesses will see the benefits in increasing paid leave benefits. "Morale goes up, productivity goes up, and more money goes into the system," Murphy said. "And increasingly, companies big and small realize that a happy workforce and a secure workforce is a key ingredient to their success."

The new benefits will go into effect in July 2020 (making next Halloween a good time to get pregnant in the Garden State).

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Whether you just need to stock up on diapers or you've had your eye on a specific piece of baby gear, you might want to swing by your local Walmart this Saturday, February 23rd.

Walmart's big "Baby Savings Day" is happening from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at participating Walmarts (but more deals can be found online at Walmart.com already and the website deals are happening for the rest of the month).

About 3,000 of the 3,570 Supercenter locations are participating in the sale (check here to see if your local Walmart is).

The deals vary, but in general you can expect up to 30% off on items like cribs, strollers, car seats, wipes, diapers and formula.

Some items, like this Graco Modes 3 Lite Travel System have been marked down by more than $100. Other hot items include this Lille Baby Complete Carrier (It's usually $119, going for $99 during the sale) and the Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat (for as low as $199).

So if you're in need of baby gear, you should check out this sale. Travel gear isn't the only category that's been marked down, there are some steep discounts on breast pumps, too.

Many of the Walmart locations will also be offering samples and expert demos of certain products on Saturday so it's worth checking out!

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Any Schumer has not had an easy pregnancy. She intended to keep working, but if you follow her on social media you know she's been very sick through each trimester.

And now in her final trimester she's had to cancel her tour due to hyperemesis gravidarum, also known as HG. It's a rare but very serious form of extreme morning sickness, and on Friday evening Schumer announced she is canceling the rest of her tour because of it.

“I vomit every time [I] ride in a car even for 5 minutes," Schumer explained in an Instagram post.

Due to the constant vomiting she's not cleared to fly and just can't continue to the tour.

This is not the first time Schumer has had to make an announcement about HG. Back in November, just weeks after announcing her pregnancy, she had to cancel shows and again broke the news via Instagram.

She posted a photo of herself in a hospital bed with her little dog Tati, and spelled out the details of her health issues in the caption. "I have hyperemesis and it blows," Schumer wrote.

Poor Amy. Hyperemesis gravidarum is really tough.

Kate Middleton, Ayesha Curry and Motherly co-founder Elizabeth Tenety are among those who, like Schumer, have suffered from this form of severe morning sickness that can be totally debilitating.

As she previously wrote for Motherly, Tenety remembers becoming desperately ill, being confined to her apartment (mostly her bed) and never being far from a trash can, "I lost 10% of my body weight. I became severely dehydrated. I couldn't work. I couldn't even get out of bed. I could barely talk on the phone to tell my doctor how sick I was—begging them to please give me something, anything—to help."

Thankfully, she found relief through a prescription for Zofran, an anti-nausea drug.

Schumer probably knows all about that drug. It looks she is getting the medical help she obviously needs, and she was totally right to cancel the tour in order to stay as healthy as possible.

We're glad to see Schumer is getting help, and totally understand why she would have to cancel her shows. Any mama who has been through HG will tell you, that wouldn't be a show you'd want front row seats for anyway.

Get well soon, Amy!

[A version of this post was published November 15, 2018. It has been updated.]

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As a military spouse, Cydney Cooper is used to doing things alone. But when she delivered her twin daughters early after complications due to Influenza A, she was missing her husband Skylar more than ever.

Recovering from the flu and an emergency C-section, and trying to parent the couple's two older boys and be with her new infant daughters in the NICU, Cydney was exhausted and scared and just wanted her husband who was deployed in Kuwait with the Army and wasn't expected home for weeks.

Alone in the NICU 12 days after giving birth, Cydney was texting an update on the twins to her husband when he walked through the door to shoulder some of the massive burden this mama was carrying.

"I was typing up their summary as best I could and trying to remember every detail to tell him when I looked up and saw him standing there. Shock, relief, and the feeling that everything was just alright hit me at once. I just finally let go," she explains in a statement to Motherly.

The moment was captured on video thanks to a family member who was in on Skylar's surprise and the reunion has now gone viral, having been viewed millions of times. It's an incredible moment for the couple who hadn't seen each other since Skylar had a three-day pass in seven months earlier.

Cydney had been caring for the couple's two boys and progressing in her pregnancy when, just over a week before the viral video was taken, she tested positive for Influenza A and went into preterm labor. "My husband was gone, my babies were early, I had the flu, and I was terrified," she tells Motherly.

"Over the next 48 hours they were able to stop my labor and I was discharged from the hospital. It only lasted two days and I went right back up and was in full on labor that was too far to stop."

Cydney needed an emergency C-section due to the babies' positioning, and her medical team could not allow anyone who had previously been around her into the operating room because anyone close to Cydney had been exposed to the flu.

"So I went in alone. The nurses and doctors were wonderful and held my hand through the entire thing but at the same time, I felt very very alone and scared. [Skylar] had been present for our first two and he was my rock and I didn't have him when I wanted him the most. But I did it! He was messaging me the second they wheeled me to recovery. Little did I know he was already working on being on his way."

When he found out his baby girls were coming early Skylar did everything he could to get home, and seeing him walk into the NICU is a moment Cydney will hold in her heart and her memory forever. "I had been having to hop back and forth from our sons to our daughters and felt guilty constantly because I couldn't be with all of them especially with their dad gone. It was one of the most amazing moments of my life and I won't be forgetting it."

It's so hard for a military spouse to do everything alone after a baby comes, and the military does recognize this. Just last month the Army doubled the amount of leave qualifying secondary caregivers (most often dads) can take after a birth or adoption, from 10 days to 21 so that moms like Cydney don't have to do it all alone.

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