Being in the NICU for a period of time, whether the duration is short lived or extended can be an isolating experience for the parents. It is often hard to know how to support someone when they are experiencing a difficult time such as this, which is why I have put together some helpful tips on how you can offer a helping hand.
- Let them know you care! But don’t be disappointed if they are unable to answer a call or respond immediately to your text. Receiving messages from friends and family helped keep me connected to the outside world which is important when your days have become inundated with hospital life. These messages reminded me that I was not alone and that people were there for me, something that can be easily forgotten when your days are now consumed with hospital life.
- Send a Giftcard: This is a practical way to show someone you are thinking about them. Find out what hospital they are staying at search the surrounding area for a good coffee place, grocery store, restaurant or even a Target. I had received a Target giftcard before our hospital stay and used it while we were there. It was a great break for me from the hospital and was fun to pick out a couple of new cozy sweaters from in the hospital.
- Have food delivered: I had a friend reach out and offer to buy us dinner and have it delivered. She coordinated with us and ordered what we wanted and let me know what time it would be dropped off. David simply went downstairs to the entrance and we enjoyed an amazing meal that was NOT hospital food. Believe me, hospital food gets old after awhile.
- Visit: Having friends and family visit was a highlight for sure! Offer to come to the hospital and go for a walk or get a coffee and chat or go take her to get her nails done. There may not be the option to see the baby while the baby is in the NICU but showing up in person and being available to talk or laugh or cry is huge. One of my favorite outings was going to get a mani/pedi with my friend. She picked me up out front and already had made us an appointment for a mini spa day. It was one of the most refreshing outings I had my entire stay there!
- Hire a cleaning crew (or do it yourself!): I had friends offer to come clean our house once we knew we would be returning home. To this day, I couldn’t tell you what the state was of our house when we left, but coming home to a clean house was refreshing. My attention was directed completely to caring for my medically fragile infant without the worry of having to deep clean or doing laundry that had been sitting around after being gone for 2 whole months!
And of course, remember to have grace for this mama. It is an experience unlike any other. Full of ups and downs, victories and major setbacks. It’s an emotional roller coaster full of the unexpected. Being empathetic towards her and what she is experiencing validates her emotions. It’s important to remember that she is under a great deal of stress and purely in survival mode. This can sometimes create a sense of fogginess, making things difficult to remember and such. Letting go of your exceptions can be extremely helpful and being there for her through it all will speak volumes to her!
Lastly, I will add from my own personal experience. I celebrated my 32nd birthday during out time in the hospital. I was devastated I wasn’t able to celebrate with my friends and family. Some of my dear friends coordinated the biggest surprise. Several of them came to the City to celebrate. They took me shopping and out to eat. It was incredibly memorable, a birthday I will never forget. I felt so loved and honored. It truly was life-giving in the midst of such hardship.
If you have experienced a hospital stay with your infant, what things would you add to this list?