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? 

Eviction Number Three

I know it has been over 6 months since my last post.. It has taken me this long to hopefully be able to complete this post.
Attempting to hold it together for photos
On July 14 I went in for a very much unwanted scheduled C-section.  My OB was going out of town and there was no other OB in the area that I even slightly trusted to even touch me, much less deliver my baby.   I was angry and dreading the surgery, seriously not how you should feel when looking to meeting your child.
My sister was my "doula" and my husband was also there.  When we got there we realized we had not taken any "bump" pictures, so we took some quickly.
 We went in and found out they had given away my room because they expected us to arrive at 8am, while my Dr had told us to arrive at anytime..  I immediately wanted to leave.  The nurse seemed a bit angry that we were "late",  my sister stepped out of the room where she went to the nurses station and politely (from what I was told) and explained that we were a hospital family and I really did not want to be having the section, but was not given a choice in the matter.
We  waited in the prep room, next to a woman in actual labor with the nurse and my sister telling jokes to keep my mind off of it.   We kept being told "a few more minutes"  "uh oh.. someone got pushed ahead"  so I didn't actually go back until 3.  That gave us enough time for them to eat and my sister to braid my hair since I knew it would be a little while until I would be able to shower.
We went over my birth plan (I used this one as a starting point and adjusted it for us) and they assured us that they would attempt to accommodate our wishes.  I swear they thought I was the crazy natural mama up for the section, but after my sister's talk with the nurses they were all really kind to us, almost pitying.
When I finally went back I was scared and worried the entire time.  I really hate getting epidurals... the cold room, the pain, the worry that if they slip up I could be paralyzed, spinal headaches... etc.   Then I was staring at the same ceiling tiles as I was at Lil'K's delivery and thinking that if that Dr hadn't been an idiot then I wouldn't be forced to do this section..
Skin-to-Skin in the OR
 My hubby came in and was allowed to look over the curtain and my sister stood at the door, both got to watch my uterus pulled out, while I looked at the bugs inside the florescent lights.   There was the usual pushing and tugging and to do a "delayed" cord clamping they laid her on my legs and did whatever else it is for as long as they could until the placenta began to separate.  Then they cut the cord, and brought her to me so we could skin to skin.  Unfortunately, due to the epidural I had weakness in my arms and had trouble moving them.  My husband was not by my side at this moment and I have no idea why.  The neonatologist had to help me adjust her because her face was in my neck.
 She was cleaned up and hubby got to trim the cord, which was actually a first for us.  He stayed with her until she was reunited with me in the room.  I of course was numb and unable to move my legs for many hours.  I remember them doing the final clean up and after they removed the curtian being shocked that my legs weren't straight like I thought they were.  When I was back in the room my hubby was able to stay with me,  and my parents brought Lil'C and Lil'K to meet their new baby sister, Baby K.   They both wanted to climb on my lap and cuddle but we of course had to be careful since I couldn't move or feel if they were hurting me.
Lil'K and Baby K
 Lil'C and Baby K

Baby wearing less than 24hours after Section.
After the epidural wore off enough I was able to get around a bit, very very slowly.  Baby K did end up having some trouble with holding her temperature and there was talk of putting her in a warmer.  First I grabbed my sling and stuck her on me, where she stayed the rest of the time there.. even at night.  That is something I would only do in a hospital setting since the nurses come in frequently and I am an experienced co-sleeper.  Still worried me but her temperature stayed 1/2 a degree from mine for the rest of our stay.
 The biggest worry I had was going home, and being home most of the day by myself with 3 little ones while healing from the surgery.  Due to Lil'K's affinity for flopping, that did become a worry.  She landed on me once so hard that I screamed and my sister had to pull her off.  I was in tears it hurt so bad.. and I was on pain meds at the time.  
At 5Lb 15oz She was my largest baby. 
She has gotten much bigger in 6 months
I do wonder if I could have done it differently, my scar was thinning but that isn't a huge deal.  If only I had been allowed to attempt a VBAC with Lil'K then maybe I would have been able to do the same with Baby K.  The crazy part is that the risk levels of a VBAC at Lil'K is less of a risk than a 3rd section and they knew I wanted a third child.  It just feels unethical to me and a bit crazy.
My post-pain is worse now as well.  My scar is in almost constant pain along with my upper right thigh,  there is also some numbing at the upper part of it (the pain goes around the edges of the numbing).   It just all feels so unnecessary and a bit unfair to my girls and myself.  So now I have had one necessary and life saving c-section, and two unnecessary ones.
Baby K is growing and is a very happy little person,  for that I am blessed.