Surviving the NICU: with your marriage

NICU parents face so many struggles.  Fear, hurt, understanding, knowledge, patience and so much more.

One area that is frequently forgotten.. Is marrage.  So much time and energy is placed on dealing with the medical and the sick baby that the relationship between mom and dad can get forgotten or placed on the back burner for far to long.  NICU parents have a very high divorce rate, most places state 97% (some say as low as 90, but I can't find any studies).  Also aparently the longer you are in the NICU.. The higher the risk, we were in 175 days. 
So what can you do about it?  The first thing is to be aware.  You have to know a struggle is there to be able to battle it. 
We have watched many of our NICU friends separate after spending time in the NICU. We are currently 5 years out from our NICU time but still have the "special needs child" risk which is also high (although it may be a myth!)
Our marrage and ourselves are far from perfect, and we both admit that. 
A few things you can do-
Avoid blame!:
This is very important.  Daddy C could blame me for the heart condition (since I was on clomid and heart conditions run in my family).  We could blame each other for the Pre-Eclampsia since that is in both our families.  We could nit-pick back and forth about what we could have done diffrently to change the outcome, but none of this is helpful. It mearly creates strife and division.  This also includes trying not to blame yourself, if there is nothing you can do about it now, then it is not helpful.  Use your time and energy to focus on what you CAN do, such as googling what you can do to improve long term outcomes and/or pumping. 
Just like in every marrage you should develop a team mentality.  The tasks you divide up will be NICU specific issues, but need to be geared toward each of your strengths.   I like to have information so I did (and still do!) most of the communicating with the doctors and nurses.  I keep track of meds, history and goals.  My husband is better at dealing with emotionally charged situations or where our son has to do something that will be painful.  For example I would step out of the NICU during eye exams and my husband would stay with him.  He is also the one who usually holds him during IVs.  We even worked as a team when it came to pumping, in the early days he would deliver the tiny syringes of milk.  Later he would take the night pumpings to the fridge and carry the frozen milk to the NICU when they needed a fresh supply.   He also took on the job of cleaning and sanitizing the pump.
Take turns:
When you are having baby time, take turns. We would swap turns at each care time, I would get the first turn of the day and he usually got the last (I need more sleep). When it came time to do kangaroo care, we swapped then too. When we had only one per day, I got it because I needed it to help me keep/build my supply (except for Father's Day, which was my gift), but when we went up to two, he got the second.  Then I the third and so on.
Date night: 
About once a month or so, we would miss one care (so hard!) to go on a date night.  Sometimes it was just a meal, but Daddy C is a movie geek, so going to a movie meant a lot for him.  Whatever works for ya'll.  Our first date night was a few weeks in when our church youth group went to a concert in the city that our NICU was in and took us along.  It was their way of getting us out of the NICU for a few hours. Lil'C was having a good day, so we went. I still remember it fondly and am glad we went. 
Strengthen the foundation: 
A weak foundation is hard on any marriage, but being in a highly stressful situation such as the NICU can really exasperate any weak areas.  We have done a few "marriage courses" over the years, even before we were pregnant.   We both hold firmly to the idea that there is always room for improvement any ANY marriage and that NO marriage is perfect.   No "happily ever after" princess here., "I Do" is a starting gun not a finish line. 
A few we have liked: 
Captivating and Wild at Heart (not marriage per say but helps you understand your own weaknesses, highly suggest it first)
Prepare to last (We did this in a church group)
Fireproof (in process) 
I have also read blogs (Pinterest!) and  books when we run into an issue.
I like the book The Surrendered Wife,  even though I hate the title and don't agree completely but I think she makes some valid points.  
I love finding free kindle books (even if I don't fully agree with the author, I usually find a new perspective.) They change frequently, so search.
Fix the finances:
The #1 cause of divorce is money trouble.. Or fighting about finances.  And NICU time is EXPENSIVE, and with therapies, Doctor appointments and being medically fragile.. It doesn't get much better.  So I highly suggest Dave Ramesy.  We had already read some of his books and we also were gifted his financial peace class, and that seriously brought some peace.  We have WAY less arguments in our home now and we are on Baby Step 2, we have a way to go but we are getting there! 

I hope these tips help strengthen your marriage and your marriage defies the odds just like your little one!

Do you have any tips for me? 

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