Hearts - Photography credit: Debby Hudson
Valentine’s Day hearts – Photography credit: Debby Hudson

Valentine’s Day – the day of love, where lots of couples show their love for each other with romantic gifts and gestures. When you have a baby you tend to be all consumed in the love for the life you have produced rather than in the romantic sense that the day represents. When you have a premature baby in the hospital it tends to mark another calendar milestone where you are aware that your baby isn’t home yet.

We were discharged from the neonatal unit 2 weeks before Valentines day so I don’t know what happened on the unit for Valentine’s Day. The staff usually go out of their way to do nice things so I suspect most NICU’s do a little something to mark the day. 

Valentine’s Day changes when you have children

I think this is a great day to remind lots of parents to appreciate each other. It’s so easy to lose yourself in day to day life that we sometimes forget to stop, take a breath, and check in with your other half. A NICU experience with a premature baby can take it’s toll too. You might disagree on treatment options for your baby. Or when you think is the best time to visit your baby. Or even how long you think you should stay. Studies show having a baby on the neonatal unit can also impact some people very heavily financially. This can only add to any strain you might already be feeling.

I personally think communication is key. Sometimes you just need to off load all your fears, frustrations, thoughts and feelings. By telling them what is going on in your own head. You are not expecting your partner to actually do anything about how you are feeling. Just knowing if they feel the same or if they have a different view point you hadn’t yet thought of can help. Sometimes just the act of verbalising everything can be enough to feel a whole lot better.

Don’t forget each other

So while your heart might be overflowing with love for your little one in the incubator remember that there are likely others in your life to help and support you because they love you. It can be a really lonely experience on the NICU. You may not feel that you have the energy or capacity to share any more love back. I promise you that no one is expecting you to. If you can open up though you might feel some of the weight you carry on your shoulders around the NICU lifts a little bit.

Couple hugging - Photography credit: Priscilla Du Preez
Couple hugging – Photography credit: Priscilla Du Preez

Even something simple like a hug can go a long way. Hugs are scientifically proven to be beneficial as well as a hug releases oxytocin and serotonin in our bodies which is sometimes called the ‘happy hormone’. Hugging has other health benefits too! A hug can reduce: blood pressure, our heart rate and the levels of a stress hormone called cortisol which if too high can be harmful. This is an interesting article with links to some studies – click here.

However you spend the day, whether you lavish someone with attention or quietly show loved ones your affections, I hope you have a Valentine’s Day filled with love.