When Erin Robinson Himes and her husband, Dave, first dressed their twin girls in tiny T-shirts, it was cause for great celebration. The new clothes signified that Emma and Ella, born 2 pounds 7 ounces and 3 pounds 3 ounces, respectively, had advanced enough to make their first fashion statements -- something the now 2-year-old sisters will likely be doing for many years to come. At the time, though, future sweater sets, school uniforms and prom dresses were pushed aside for more pressing matters: a seven-week stay in the NICU.
The NICU, which stands for neonatal intensive care unit, is a unit in a hospital for newborns needing special care, often because they arrive too early. In 2006 alone, 12.8 percent of the babies born were born premature. That's about 1 out of every 8 babies, and many of them need care in the NICU [source: National Center for Health Statistics, final natality data].
Each baby in the NICU represents parents who are faced with the fact that their dreams may not be turning out as planned. However, even though the NICU comes with challenges, there are ways to cope. Here are 10 of them.