This post is a little different as you can tell by the title. Since having Grey I have been asked countless times by friends and family how they can help someone who recently had a preemie. This is such a loaded question because each NICU stay is different and each person going through their personal NICU journey is going to need different things. However, I am going to try and tackle this question the best way I can. I want to be honest and pure in what I say and give good advice for those seeking how to truly help.
To help me, I asked some close preemie mom friends what they thought was helpful for them during their NICU journey. Some of these women are first time moms, some have kids at home, some work, some live away from family, some husbands had to go back to work leaving them alone in the hospital to try and absorb as much information as possible. Each mom had a different NICU stay and each one had great ideas to help me write this post. Thanks again, ladies!
So here we go…
The moment you find out that you’re not going to have a full-term baby your dreams of that moment are crushed. I know I’ve said this before, but it is so true, each mom has a little piece of their heart break by not having “that moment” or “normal delivery” that they anticipated. They are given statistics giving them hope but also hitting them with reality of what could possibly happen. Having a preemie is overwhelming, it’s scary and it’s foreign.
To make this simple, I thought a list would be easier to read than paragraphs of words. Simple and to the point is how i like to receive information. So here is a list of ideas on what to do for families who have just had a preemie or baby in the NICU.
Congratulate: The first few days Ryan and I were filled with adrenaline – overwhelmed with information and swimming through the surrealness of the situation thinking, “WHAT THE HECK JUST HAPPENED?” However, we also just had our first baby. Our baby girl. Who was so precious and PERFECT. Interestingly enough, the majority of the moms replied to me by saying “I wish people would have congratulated us more.” It’s hard because people want you to know they are praying, but it is so nice to hear “congratulations…your baby is perfect!” Cards of encouragement were the perfect gift. We were able to hang them up in our room, as many parents did, and it reminded us daily of the continuous support we were getting.
Gift cards : for food, gas, groceries. An excellent idea from one mom who wrote me was gift cards to Babies R US or somewhere they could buy the things they needed for their baby. Many times, moms don’t get the “normal” baby shower as they anticipated so getting all the baby gear is sometimes overwhelming.
Notebook or Journal: Once your baby is in the NICU you are loaded with information from doctors, nurses, techs, etc. who are educating you 24-7. The information can be overwhelming so writing things down in a journal is one way to help remember what everyone is saying. It’s also extremely nice to have a journal to write down milestones or have an outlet to express emotions.
Care packages- Days, weeks, months in the NICU are long and tiring. Some days you don’t want to leave your baby’s bedside so the best thing to have close is a care package filled with snacks, gum, crosswords and books. One mom mentioned a helpful book for her was “Parenting Your Premature Baby and Child: The Emotional Journey.”
Offer to mow or shovel (depending on season/location): This was a huge help to us and a major relief for Ryan. One less thing we didn’t have to worry about.
Listen- Sometimes just an ear to listen to what is going on is a huge help. I remember calling my friend and just telling her about Grey and what she did for the day. She didn’t even have to say anything back. She simply listened to what I had to say and never minimized Grey’s condition. It’s the best gift to give someone.
MEALS- prepared meals, groceries, gift cards to restaurants. For those families who have children at home, it’s a completely different ball game. They are overwhelmed in a completely different way because their life has now been split; hospital and home. One mom wrote to me and said prepared meals were a huge help. They had meals prepared for their family during their NICU stay and once they got home.
Offer to watch kids/ dog- We didn’t have other kids at home, but we did have a fur-baby, Gus. Ryan’s sisters’ family took Gus willingly off our hand for an ENTIRE MONTH. Thanks Angelmyer’s. That was a HUGE HELP so I can’t imagine how helpful it is to have someone come watch your kids who are at home while you spend quality time at the hospital without distraction.
SHARE YOUR STORY- if you know someone or have been down the NICU journey reach out to a new NICU mom and support them. Support them by sharing your story of success, trial, tears, and joy. It is so helpful to know other people who share the same story.
Pray- Truly pray for these babies and their families. It’s so nice to hear that people are lifting you and your new baby up in prayer.
These are just a few examples of how to help someone who recently started a NICU journey, but each family will need some thing different so just simply ask, “how can I help?” Or even better, tell them, “this is what I would like to do for you!” Sometimes it was hard to tell people exactly what we needed because we weren’t even sure ourselves and we didn’t want to ask too much.
One last point I want to make is that once you come home from the NICU your journey is not over. It’s actually far from it. Many times people feel even more overwhelmed once being home and need support that much more. Remember to ask them once being home how you can help. Many babies are well enough to be home from the NICU but are still on monitors, oxygen, take several medications, have feeding issues and many doctor appointments to juggle. Take the time to reach out to them. They are in need of help, I guarantee you.
Thanks for reading this lengthy blog post. I hope it helps in some way and can be shared to people who ask, “my friend just had a preemie – how can I help them?”
Check back soon for an update on GREY’S FIRST BIRTHDAY!!!