Friday, December 16, 2011

Home for the Holidays

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Home for the Holidays
By Lisa Knigge Rondeau

You’ve survived the NICU and are now home with your baby. You’ve finally settled into a routine with your preemie and the rest of your family (hopefully). Just when things seem to be sailing along, here come the holidays to throw a wrench in your plans!

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m no Scrooge. I happen to love the holidays and everything they represent—time with friends and family and all we hold dear. A time to reflect on what is truly important in our lives, which is even more meaningful now that you have experienced the life-altering journey of a premature baby. And yet, that first (or second, or third) holiday home with your preemie can be incredibly stressful! It’s a Catch-22—everyone wants to see your baby, which is great, but then everyone wants to see your baby, which is exhausting, impractical, and could be dangerous depending on the germ factor where you live. It’s hard to set boundaries with those we love, but it is essential to do for the sanity and safety of everyone.

The first step to figuring this out is to sit down and establish what is truly essential for this holiday, knowing that some things will have to go. Only you and your immediate family can make these decisions and it will take some soul searching. But try to figure out exactly how you want this holiday to look and feel. Is it essential that you see your parents and siblings? Grandma and Grandpa and other extended family? Friends traveling from out of town? Remember, your preemie baby isn’t going to remember these visits—you will. So figure out what you can live with and what you can do without for the time being. If you really can’t narrow down your list, it might be helpful to ask your pediatrician for suggestions. He or she may feel strongly that your little one be exposed to very few people to minimize the risk of infection—if so, your decision is made for you and this can help you break the news to Aunt Shirley why you are not bringing everyone out caroling this year.

Once you know who you must see, figure out the how and when of getting that accomplished. Let’s face it, the holidays were probably already stressful before you had your preemie—lots of rushing from place to place—perhaps with an older (and possibly very cranky) sibling too. Ever dream of not doing all that? Of running away to a deserted island? Well now is your chance! While maybe the island part won’t work out, now is the perfect time to start setting some limits as to what you can accomplish in one day. December hath 31 days folks—use them. Maybe a get together could be moved to the weekend before the actual holiday to free up your schedule. Or perhaps a daytime New Year’s celebration is in order. Try to plan events so you can actually enjoy them—think about nap times and feeding times and travel times and take all of it into consideration first. Remind yourself, and family members if needed, that while everyone wants to see you and that little miracle, absolutely NO ONE wants to see that little miracle (and his or her parents!) having an hour long meltdown due to exhaustion.

Last but not least, oce the holidays arrive, put a smile on your face and enjoy them. You will never get this time back, so be merry whenever you can. Be thankful for all you have and amazed at everything you have endured and survived. Remember when it seemed like you would NEVER leave the NICU? Well, you did. Hooray! And December will end too, leaving you with tons of great memories, and about 11 months to start thinking about the next one.


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