No one would ever wish for their baby to require a NICU stay, but many parents we talked to were able to find hope and encouragement through their NICU journey. During emotionally difficult times, it’s important to acknowledge negative feelings like anger or hopelessness, as well as highlight the silver lining.

Parents often come to rely on hospital staff not just for medical care and advice during their baby’s stay. The staff becomes a source of encouragement and support, too. Doctors, nurses, lactation consultants and other support staff can become like family after sharing such an emotionally-trying ordeal and coming out on the other side.

Medical professionals usually go into their lines of work because they care passionately about other people.

You may find that some of your baby’s caretakers are just as patient and kind with you as they are with your baby.

That in itself can give parents a sense of assurance that their baby is loved and cared for even when they can’t be there.

You may also bond with other NICU parents who understand your experience in a way few others can. Sometimes it’s easier to keep a positive attitude for others than it is for yourself, so allow other parents to encourage you when you’re having a hard day. Hearing real stories about other NICU babies not just surviving but thriving, like the now NFL linebacker who was born a preemie, can give you hope for a strong, healthy future.

While you are busy caring for your baby, let others care for you.

Many NICU parents talk about a tribe of friends and family rallying around them to help with meals, errands, and housework. Even though you’d much rather be somewhere else, there’s something nice about a friend bringing you real food and visiting with you and your baby in the hospital.

Even with all the help in the world, the importance of self-care cannot be overlooked. Let a friend help with chores or child care while you go out for a date, do something on your own, or just take a nap.

The intense needs of a sick baby can put a lot of stress on the parents’ relationship with each other. But this stress doesn’t have to be destructive. Just as heat and pressure can create a diamond in the right circumstances, some NICU parents talk about their silver lining being

an intensified closeness to their partner as a result of their shared experience.

They’ve learned that they can rely on their partner even in the most difficult circumstances.

Other parents find themselves with a renewed faith after learning an intimate lesson in trust when everything seems out of control.

We hope that you found this series encouraging. Too often, parents of NICU babies suffer alone in silence. We hope to help those voices be heard as a way to bring these common experiences to light. Please share this post or any of the previous ones in this series (Finding Out, Coping with Fear and Anger, What to Do When You Feel Helpless or Hopeless) with anyone who might need to know they aren’t alone. If you or someone you know is in need of doula support during or after a NICU stay, please get in touch on our Contact page or by phone. We consider it an honor to provide support during this time.