How to function with a 4 year old while baby in NICU in SF

Hello parents, after an epic struggle I have been lucky enough to get pregnant a second time, and am now coping with a very scary pregnancy. It looks like the best case scenario is for my son to stay in my belly until 34 weeks before I have to have a c section. Due to all the complications and risks I am going to UCSF's maternal fetal medicine practice for my care and barring an emergency will give birth there. I am only 25 weeks now so he may end up arriving even earlier. My older son is 4.5 and in full time preschool in Oakland where we live. I am trying to prepare myself as much as possible for coping with a traumatic birth and tiny baby not ready for the world, and for trying to parent my older son while my baby is in the NICU and I have to pump every two hours. My older son was also premature, but made it to 36 weeks so had no NICU time - I know the pumping nonstop drill but cannot fathom how I will balance anything with both children's needs. My husband only gets 1 week paid leave so it will also be a struggle to figure out what time is most precious for him to be with our new baby. My parents are planning to help with child care for my older son, but I cannot disappear from him even if he is being cared for. I would welcome any wisdom or advice about how others have coped with this situation. Thank you.

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this is so hard! I only had one kid in the NICU and no toddler at the time, but I do have a friend I'd like to put you in touch with. I also just wonder if it would be possible for your baby to be in the NICU at Children's rather than in the city? I'm sorry I couldn't figure out from the post if that's already the case. Anyway feel free to email me at amythek [at] and I will put you in touch with my friend who did this. You're a great mom already and whatever you figure out, your kids will both be okay, just because you are being so mindful about this now. xo

I'm so sorry you that you may be facing this.  It is hard and scary.  My younger daughter was in the NICU for 6+ weeks and we had an almost 3 year old at the time.  We had some family support, but 6 weeks is a long time.  We opted to go back and forth between our home in the Oakland Hills and the City daily.  We would drop our daughter off at preschool in the morning, head for a full day at the hospital, and leave around 4:30 pm in order to pick up our oldest by 6 pm.  It was hard leaving our new baby in the hospital each day, but we didn't want to neglect our oldest.  My SIL came to the hospital a few nights a week for several hours and would hold and rock the baby, which helped me feel a bit better.  We were also fortunate enough to have 2 lovely primary NICU nurses.  I frequently called in the middle of the night to get an update while I was pumping.  We were usually at the hospital for about 12 hours/day on the weekend.  I would sit with the baby, while my husband and SIL entertained our older daughter.  We were at Parnassus, so they were able to go back and forth to Golden Gate Park quite easily.  My older daughter LOVED the nurses and LOVED going to the hospital  I would worry about her behavior, which was typical of an almost 3-year old, but every Monday morning, the staff would be asking me where our older daughter was and when she was coming back.  If you are going to go back and forth between your home and UCSF and are having a C-section, you should think about how you are going to get there if you are not able to drive right away.  I had a difficult C-section and didn't feel comfortable driving for about 2 weeks.

Engage with your son's preschool and ask them for suggestions and see if they can provide extra help. My guess is that the continuation of his regular routine will be very important with this big change occurring in his life. 


There is an organization called There with Care that works with families in similar situations   They recognize it is stressful on the whole family unit   I know they work with Stanford and were considering expanding  They might have referrals

You aren't going to like this, but as a NICU retiree, I suggest that you visit your newborn as much as possible, but also trust your NICU to do what they do best -- get your baby ready to go home. Your 4 year old needs you more than you probably want to be needed right now. By focusing on your 4 year old, when your newborn comes home EVERYONE will be grateful and welcoming. Keep pumping and leave a scented  (your scent -- an infant cap you wear in your bra) object with your baby, but have faith in your NICU team to care for your baby for now.