Discharge Day


Discharge Day: It is Okay to Be Freaked Out

I went from being 30-weeks pregnant to suddenly being in labor to being on bedrest for 30 hours to then giving birth 10 minutes after being told it would be happening that night.  And after a rocky 38-day stay in the NICU that included lots of roller coaster moments with my daughter, a one week maternity leave to get back to the company I was running and a hurricane slamming our region, we brought my daughter home on oxygen and a monitor and with a whole team of specialists and a set of medications.  Me, freaked out prior to discharge time?  YES.  Oh heck yes.  

Since the birth I maintained the Smiling Mom demeanor while visiting my daughter in the NICU.  At home I was a wreck, struggling to pump breastmilk on a schedule, catching up on work and working through my hormonal overload of emotions.  As discharge day was announced and then quickly approached there were many things to do at home and in the NICU to get ready.  Between the infant CPR class (don’t ever sign up for the hospital’s “regular” class, see if the NICU has one for you, trust me on this), getting trained on the medical equipment by the Durable Medical Equipment (DME) provider I quickly surmised that I was preparing to be a home health nurse rather than a mother.  In short I was terrified.  It was bad enough that I was a first time mother and then I had a fragile infant on my watch.  Were we able to handle this?  

The day of discharge I was at work finishing up my morning but not concentrating on much of anything. Someone asked me what was wrong and I blurted out, “My daughter is coming home from the NICU today!” You would have thought I was about to handle a time bomb, I was that nervous. As we headed to the hospital and entered the NICU, we were quickly set up with a nurse to work through the discharge process. It took the better part of 2 hours to do all of this and pack up our tiny infant’s full cart of belongings (how did such a baby get so much stuff in such a small amount of time?) and get us all down to the lobby to load her into the car.  

So from my experience to you - a special baby shower gift as you take your baby home:  tips to make that day easier. 

  • A few days before or the week before, try to focus on sleep. Even though you are running around like crazy trying to get things done ahead of time, some of it can definitely wait until later.  Sleep is key right now.  You are likely to lose some sleep once the baby comes home so give yourself a solid week’s worth of extra sleep now.  Go to bed earlier if you can.  You will be glad you did. It will not only help with focus but also with your health (and keeping germs away from your baby).  Caregiver burnout is a real thing so while everything else may seem like a bigger priority, sleep is an even bigger one right now.
  • If there are siblings involved, give them some extra TLC right now. The siblings are still trying to sort through this huge change in their lives and the NICU stay has added a whole new level of upheaval. Try to take some time out each day to talk to the siblings about the upcoming shift of life from hospital to home. And ask them to work on ways to help welcome the baby (a picture, a welcome home sign for the baby room door, buy a baby book, etc.).
  • Don’t forget pets need help with the transition, too. Have a dog or a cat?  Showing up with a new family member could create some acting out by your pet(s) if you don’t prepare them ahead of time.  Bring a baby blanket from your child’s NICU and bring it home to the pets for sniffing each night.  Then when the baby comes home, put the baby down on a clean blanket on the floor so the pets can come up and sniff.  Stay nearby for protection but let the pets have a moment to get to know their new friend.
  • Date night for the parents.  Schedule a special night out for just you parents.  It does not need to be a huge deal, it could be pizza out.  Just get out and spend a little alone time together prior to the baby coming home.  Talk about fears, about excitement.  Talk about ways to help each other through the homecoming and the next several months.  And make sure you are discussing the importance of being a “united front” with others, i.e. you two decide together how to respond to things related to the baby and things like visitors, medical decisions going forward, handling household matters and more.
  • Prep the refrigerator, the nursery and every phone (landline and smartphone) with information.  Make sure you have emergency phone numbers by every household phone that includes the ambulance service, the pediatrician and all of the specialists involved in your child’s care. Do the same for the fridge and in the nursery, too.  Do not assume that in the light of an emergency that your smartphone will always be with you.   
  • Have a bag packed for the baby for emergencies.  The reality is, preemies often get re-hospitalized.  Hopefully your child will do fine with the transition but regardless it is smart to be prepared on the fly if there is a problem and a re-admittance is necessary.  Pack a bag with outfits, with extra pumping supplies, an extra set of clothes for each of you or at least some clean underwear and a day or two worth of medication, snacks and bottles of water.  

As we walked into the house with our daughter and her “accessories” of medical equipment the place was the same as always except for a surprise set of balloons in our living room.  My parents had come to the house dropped off a welcome bouquet for us so as to be “welcoming” but to stay away as we were in full-on cold/flu/RSV season.  We put a baby blanket on the floor of the living and placed Becky on it swaddled but accessible to our two cats.  They both sniffed her and that was that.  I won’t lie and say that the next several weeks were simple but in hindsight we did okay handling the hiccups that occurred throughout that period. 


Deb Discenza is the Founder and CEO/Publisher of PreemieWorld, LLC and the co-Author to The Preemie Parent’s Survival Guide to the NICU.  (https://PreemieWorld.com).  She also runs the free Inspire Preemie Community, 40,000+ strong at http://preemie.inspire.com