Many pregnant women do not anticipate or prepare in advance for their newborn end up in the NICU. I was definitely in the minority that I knew, being pregnant with twins, that there was a very strong possibility that I would end up being a NICU mom. While not all twins are born early, or need extra care, we wanted to make sure that we were having our girls at a hospital with one of the best. No matter how much you think you are or aren’t prepared for this, I don’t know that you ever can really be prepared.
I went into pre-term labor at 29 weeks and knew at that point that we would do everything we could to keep the girls from being born early, but it was a strong possibility it could happen! I went into the hospital at 32 weeks and ended up having them via c-section at 33 weeks two days before Christmas. Now began the challenge of healing from a c-section (it’s major surgery people) and being there for my two sweet baby girls who were in different areas of the NICU.
So what can you do to support a NICU Momma? All of our experiences are different, and all NICUs are different so these tips are pulled from my experience as well as my friends experience.
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10 Ways to Support a NICU Mom
1. Your friend or family member they just had a baby, or maybe babies! Make sure to be excited and send congratulations just as you would with any other birth! This sweet baby has a journey ahead and deserves to be celebrated!
2. As I mentioned earlier, most people aren’t expecting a premature birth. Likely they weren’t prepared for needing preemie baby clothes and will need some. Most preemies won’t be able to wear clothes right away, but will certainly need them. My personal favorites, were clothes with snaps or velcro as it was the easiest with the cords. I also wish I had preemie mittens to keep them from pulling out tubes and of course hats that are small enough are appreciated. Here’s a few suggestions to help you get started:
3. Reach out to your loved ones and send them messages/texts letting them know you’re thinking of them. Please also keep in mind that those messages can get overwhelming and it is likely they will be ignored and read later. Don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from them for weeks or even months.
4. Send them a baby gift! As I mentioned in number one this is a miracle child that is meant to be celebrated. While the girls were in the NICU we received a few of the sweetest gifts, personalized Pottery Barn baby blankets that are the sweetest and softest blankets ever, and a personalized book that is specifically for twins being born! I could have died I love that book so much.
5. Ask if you can come visit, be okay with them saying no! Every NICU is going to have different visitor policies and every family will feel a little different about people coming to visit. In addition, these tiny babies shouldn’t be too overwhelmed either. However, I can’t tell you how much it meant that a few of my friends and my bosses were able to come and see my gorgeous babies.
6. Come by the hospital and take them out or bring them coffee. Sometimes just an hour break away can be refreshing, as well as depending on their recovery they may not yet be driving! We had friends that came to visit the girls and then took us out for a lovely brunch. I came back to the hospital so refreshed and ready to spend some more quality time with my babies.
7. Find out if there is any services/amenities available at the hospital that might be helpful or a stress reliever. My Mother-In-Law had chair massages sent to us in our room and boy, that was a treat.
8. Your friends may have family at home that may need support. I was lucky that I could focus on the girls and didn’t have children back at home that needed care! You can send pizza, drop off freezer meals, do a grocery run, organize a meal train with other friends and family to ensure meals are covered. Come over and do laundry, offer to drive kids to school, or to have them over to play with your own kids to keep them busy. Any and all of these things will be appreciated.
9. A gas card or other basics they may need. Our NICU wasn’t very far away and I could sleep there. Some NICUs may have a Ronald McDonald House nearby for parents to sleep at. Some parents have a really long drive just to spend time with their baby. Any little help with the cost of gas will certainly be helpful.
10. Don’t ask, just do. The NICU can be very overwhelming and exhausting and one more decision can be too much. Your friends will appreciate your help and if you can take anything off their plate they will be grateful.
I shed many tears during the 5 weeks in the NICU. The love and support from my family and friends and of course the baby snuggles got me through. What made your NICU stay a little more bearable?