I second what Katelove says about medication. IT is sometimes helpful. However, if you don't want to consider it at this time, I also second all the things she says about NICU social workers, and I'll add in that hospitals typically have chaplains on staff. Whether or not they have a chaplain in your faith tradition, they should have someone who has experience with people in your situation. It may sound corny, but talking really, REALLY helps. I cannot say enough that I think you should find someone you can talk to. Social workers and chaplains don't prescribe medication, but they can offer a lot of things that are likely to help you feel better - reality checking your perceptions, helping you figure out what to ask friends and family to do, helping you figure out and cope with your daughter's prognosis, whatever it is.
My daughter was 7.5 weeks early, and it was pretty awful. Here is what I know about the NICU:
- It's scary. Without anyone meaning it to be frightening, it is.
- You can feel useless. There you are, with arms and breasts ready for a baby, and there's your baby, hooked up to All The Machines, and the arms and breasts seem really irrelevant.
- It's hard to know what to feel. Happy you had a baby? Terrified that she might die? Grateful for all this modern medicine? Devastated that you lost out on the newborn period you reasonably expected to have? All of these, and some other stuff, all at once?
- No one knows what to say. They tend to pick from the list above, but not the last option, and everything they say can sound stupid.
- Sometimes, people not only don't know what to say, they don't know what to do. If you tell them what to do, some of them might come around and do it. Check out www.lotsahelpinghands.com
, or spend half an hour on the phone with one good friend. I found I could usually forgive people for saying stupid things if they showed up with a casserole, or mowed the yard.
- The outcomes for preemies vary a lot. Some of them - even as early as yours - wind up as totally normal kids. Some of them have lasting challenges. Right now, it may be impossible to know, so you have to somehow keep all the possibilities in mind, which is difficult, and stressful.
- It can be really hard to see the baby. She's in the hospital, surrounded by all these machines, and there's terrible worry, but she's in there, and she's growing and changing and getting better every day. Sometimes, bringing other people by to look at the baby helps, because they don't see her every day, so the changes will be more obvious to them.
- It may not seem like it right now, but the things you can do DO matter.
Pumping breast milk matters. Putting the baby's footprints on cards matters. Picking out a baby blanket, or selecting the cutest things from the NICU stash of preemie clothes matter. Taking pictures of the baby, drawing her a nameplate, or writing her letters matter. Going to a NICU support group, taking care of yourself, and feeling better matter.