Facing the realization that your child has been hospitalized can be an extremely traumatic event for a couple. Caring for a premature baby can put strains on your marriage like never before. The crisis that occurs during the crucial first days of your baby’s life is enough stress to last a lifetime. It is essential to your marriage to understand the overwhelming needs of your child while taking special care and consideration for yourself. Adjusting to the next year with your premature baby will be important to your marriage and your child’s development.
Everybody copes in different ways, whether by watching television, or going shopping. With your child being hospitalized, it may limit the ways you normally cope. It is important to transition your feelings into something that can be done during hospital visits, like reading a book, or knitting. At the beginning of this difficult time, it may be more common for the father to visit because the mother is still physically recovering from childbirth. Time apart may seem inevitable, yet it is important to try your best to designate time with each other, even if it is as simple as taking a nap on your husbands lap during your hospital visit.
Once mom has had time to recover, chances are most of her time will be spent with the baby. Fathers who generally can’t take time off from work must fulfill their financial obligations on top of hospital visits. This is not only a difficult time for the father, who has to balance work and coping with a premature child, but also the mother who must make hospital visits alone. Learning how to handle the reality of giving birth to a premature child can often be a balancing act for couples. Role reversal can be common, with the father fulfilling many of the household duties like cooking, or cleaning to allow mom time to see her child.
Feeling isolated, or guilty can be common during this stressful time. A couple should stay in constant communication to avoid misunderstandings and hurt feelings. It can become easy for a mother to forget her other responsibilities when faced with the constant anxiety of losing her child. The key to surviving this hard time is love and patience. Stress is felt on all sides of the family, whether it is the mother at the hospital, or the father at work.
As the hospital bills pile up and the emotional pressure builds, couples can feel helpless when trying to confront all of these problems at once. A father may question his parenting abilities and feel as though he is not doing enough to support his family. A mother can feel lonely and even deserted as she visits the baby alone. During this time, a mother is more actively involved in the child’s life as she makes critical decisions for the child during hospital visits. Although the father may not always be present, his role in the child’s life is just as important. During this time, making phone calls, or even sending a quick text message can be a great way of keeping the father informed about any decisions being made without him. This will allow him to still feel apart of the family and show a mother’s consideration for his opinion, as the father.
Understanding that everyone handles things differently can be the key to avoiding arguments as a couple. One parent may express feelings of worry, or fear while the other may be staying strong for the both of them. Whatever feelings may arise during this stressful time, it is important for couples to give the necessary attention to their relationship and to talk about these feelings. This can include couples therapy, or even a romantic evening out.
Having a premature child can be isolating for a marriage and it is essential to try closing this gap from the beginning. Spending too much time in the NICU can cause couples to forget why they decided to start a family in the first place. Rekindling these feelings can help both mother and father cope with the trauma of premature baby, while reminding each other that difficult situations only bring couples closer.