Bringing a baby earth side isn’t always sunshine and rainbows, sometimes it’s gray skies and rain.
Leaving your baby in the NICU is hard enough while you’re in the hospital but it’s absolutely heart wrenching when you leave them to go home. I experienced it two years ago when I left my twins. Everyone wanted to be there for us and wanted to help but very few people knew how to do just that.
Here are 6 simple ways you can help:
1.) Be there. Congratulate, ask all the typical questions you would ask of a healthy newborn, ask for pictures but understand if they don’t want to share them yet. Best of all show your concern, love and support for the family without being overbearing. A simple call, text, email or card letting them know you’re thinking of them will do. Don’t ask when the baby is coming home because chances are they have no idea. Avoid comments such as “at least you’re getting some rest before you bring baby home.” Your intentions may be good, but it comes off offensive. Just be a listening ear and a word of empathy.
2.) Don’t invite yourself to the NICU. Nurses and parents alike work to keep the most fragile babies safe, secure and free of germs. You may not know but even something as simple as talking can cause a baby stress or cause them to burn much needed calories. The parents will invite you in when they feel comfortable doing so, until then, respect their wishes and understand it’s simply for the well-being of their greatest treasure.
3.) Be their chauffeur. Generally mom isn’t cleared to drive for several weeks and dad has to go back to work before baby comes home. There’s not much that’s more important to a new mom than being with her baby so offer to take her to and from the hospital if you’re available. This was something that I was most grateful for.
4.) Create a meal train or give gift certificates to local restaurants or the hospital cafeteria. Meal trains are common for new parents once they bring baby home but even before then they are very much appreciated. Between traveling to and from the NICU and spending as much time there as possible, it’s so nice to get a home cooked meal or be able to grab a quick bite to eat without having to spend precious time cooking. Even asking the parents to meet you for dinner somewhere near the hospital to get them out for a bit. Most NICU’s are closed during shift changes so let the family know you can work around that. Once again, don’t be surprised if they decline the invitation, emotions are strong and often overwhelming.
5.) Do favors. Offer to help babysit any other children, take them to and from school, pet sit, clean their house or any other helpful gestures. Most parents aren’t going to ask you to do these things even if they’d like to, but if you genuinely offer, they’re likely to accept.
6.) Run errands for them. Ask if they need anything from the store, for the baby, pets, etc. and do it for them.
It’s the little things that make such a strong impact.