Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It brings about visions of disabled veterans. It feels silly and selfish to think of yourself as having mental issues after a premature birth. But you just feel like something isn’t right. You sit around all day thinking about it. You become obsessed with it. The littlest things can send you back to those days and can bring about bad memories and many sleepless nights. One night, I freaked out because my mom’s microwave sounds like the feeding tube machine beeping.
Last night, I finally got the ovaries to type in “nicu” and “PTSD” on google. I felt silly. But sure enough, there were plenty of articles to choose from. One in particular was from the New York Times called ‘For Parents On NICU, Trauma May Last’. I felt a little better knowing that it is becoming more accepted that parents of NICU graduates ARE prone to acute stress and post traumatic stress disorders.
Experts say that the parents of these babies often go through multiple traumas. The first being the birth itself. Labor and delivery is scary enough as it is. Premature birth is unexpected. You don’t know if your baby will make it or not. You’re not even sure if you’re okay or not. What if something goes wrong? You don’t have the time to really prepare for becoming a parent. You’re just kind of thrown into it. The whole nine months is a growing process for you as well as the baby.
The second trauma is seeing your child go through pain and enduring life threatening diseases and struggles to do what most people take for granted. You witness your fragile little baby undergo frightening procedures and you see the other infants around you going through them as well. The NICU is a sad, cold, and lonely place where the sound of both infants and parents crying is always to be heard.
The third and final trauma is recieving serial bad news. Your child will be doing good one day and when you come in the next morning, something has gone wrong. It’s not like other forms of trauma where the event happens only once and it’s over and you have to deal with it. With a preemie, everytime you see your baby, the experience comes up again.
Post Traumatic Stress may take the form of nightmares or flashbacks. Sometimes the parent feels anxiety over the beeping of the monitors, refuses to visit the unit, or even emotionally distances themself from the child. Over time, they develop depression, anxiety, insomnia, numbness, anger, and agression.
People with adequate social support networks report less stress and overall improved mental health in comparison to those without adequate social contacts. Many times, we don’t know where to turn to because we feel that unless you’ve been through the NICU, you don’t understand. So we hold it inside and try to keep it together for our family’s sake. But if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy… in the long run of course. That’s why we need places like shareyourstory.org and friends to talk to. And doctors, if that helps. That’s why I’ve started this blog. Don’t hesitate to seek help and find closure in whatever way you can. Find people that have been there and those who are going through it now and hold their hand. It’s hard. It takes time. And it will get better. It has to. : ) We have to, for ourselves and for our children. God bless the preemie moms. ❤