The birth of a baby is one of the most personal, exhausting, beautiful, and emotionally charged
events of a lifetime. But when everything does not go as expected—if labor is complicated or your
baby is born preterm or facing serious complications—different emotions take over. If your baby
is now in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), you may be feeling anxious, confused, guilty,
angry, and even sad over the loss of the uncomplicated, healthy birth experience you had envisioned.
This book can help you understand the NICU and how you can best meet this challenge. It was
written by professionals with decades of NICU experience in partnership with 14 families whose
babies spent their first weeks, and sometimes months, in the NICU. Each family’s story is unique,
yet they all share common themes of strength and determination. Every parent was afraid, but
they all learned to navigate the complex world of the NICU and become valuable members of
their baby’s health care team. You will learn, through their words, about the NICU parent
experience—from birth, through intensive care, to homecoming, and beyond.
We invite you to become an important member of your baby’s health care team. We believe
parents can and should play an active role in their baby’s care. This book was written for parents
who want to learn about their baby’s illness, how to overcome the barriers to parenting in the
NICU, and how to nurture their NICU graduate at home.
You will not need all the information in this book because your baby will not have every
problem described here. Look at the table of contents to find the sections that interest you most—
and know that what interests you will change as your baby progresses through hospitalization. As
you read through the sections that pertain to your baby, you may notice some parts of your baby’s
treatment are somewhat different than what is described here. That is because treatment approaches
vary across the country and nursing and medical research is constantly changing the way babies in
the NICU are managed. Ask your baby’s team about any differences that concern you.
As you read the stories of families who volunteered to share their experiences, you will notice
that some families have recent NICU experience, while others have NICU graduates who have
already started school. All of these parents agreed to share their intensely personal stories so they
could give you hope and help you discover your own strengths during hospitalization and as your
child grows. A complete list of all the family stories is included on page xiii.
The NICU can be a place of remarkable healing. You will meet other parents whose support
will give you strength. You will meet health care professionals who have devoted their careers to
helping babies like yours. You will discover that the NICU offers a unique blend of technology
and compassion that encourages healing and growth not only for babies, but also for parents.
Learning to be a good parent never ends. We hope you get a good start here.
Jeanette Zaichkin,
Gary Weiner,
David Loren,
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