I get asked a lot of questions about what our NICU experience was like and what another family with a baby in the NICU can expect. A lot of times I can’t really give an answer, because so many things just depend on your child and your NICU and how much Diet Coke you have available to you.
But there are plenty of questions I can answer, and most of those revolve around the theme of “What can I do/say/bring/sacrifice to help?” I have gotten asked that quite a few times recently, so I thought I would post some answers here, Animaniacs style. So – prepare yourself for the good ideas and bad ideas of supporting a friend or family member in their NICU life.*
*These are meant to be helpful but also fun. If you have said/done any of the bad ideas, no worries.
Good idea: Telling your friend you are praying for her.
Bad idea: Telling your friend you are praying for her because she looks fat after just having had a baby.
Good idea: Asking what you can bring to the family during this stressful time.
Bad idea: Showing up unannounced with a mariachi band.
Good idea: Letting your friend vent to you, cry to you, hug you.
Bad idea: Letting your friend do all these things while you secretly try to get to the next level on Candy Crush.
Which reminds me – if you are thinking of inviting me to play Candy Crush, don’t. Every time you send me a Candy Crush request, a tiny kitten gets carried away and eaten by a hawk. Think about that the next time you want to get more lives or whatever it is you people do. Think of the kittens.
Good idea: Sending a card to your friend or family member to let them know you are thinking of them.
Bad idea: Sending a card to your friend or family member that you filled with glitter. Glitter is the WORST, do you understand? The. Worst.
Good idea: Asking your friend how her baby is doing, what the doctors are saying, etc.
Bad idea: Asking your friend how her baby is doing while making horrified faces at the responses.
|“What do you mean, his oxygen saturation is only 82 percent?!”|
Good idea: Telling your friend how cute her baby is.
Good idea: Asking if you can visit your friend and the baby.
Bad idea: Visiting your friend and baby for three hours while showing them a ton of hilarious YouTube videos about cats dressed like people.
So I hope that clears things up for you.
Okay, okay. I will give you a real list. The things we found most useful during our NICU stay were:
– Phone chargers (make sure you know what kind of phone/charger they use!)
– Gift cards – gas stations or nearby restaurants are really helpful! Our hospital had a restaurant in the cafeteria and we got a lot of gift cards for that, which was fabulous.
– Gum. I went through so much gum while Josh was in the hospital that I could have wallpapered our house with the wrappers. Ooh! DIY Pinterest idea!
– Scented hand sanitizer. Hospitals are big on cleanliness (especially in the NICU!) but that hand sanitizer smell really gets old after a while. Fun scents are always exciting.
– Books or book/Kindle recommendations. I read approximately 4730282 books while Josh was in the hospital.
– Water bottles. My friend Hayley brought me a reusable water bottle that was amazing and I still use it. She also brought me a delicious dessert. Bring those, too.
– Change for vending machines or small snacks that can be eaten quickly. Our NICU did not allow eating in the actual rooms so all snacks had to be eaten in the lobby. I’m guessing that’s a pretty common rule.
– Cards, texts, emails, Facebook messages – I got cards from family, friends, and total strangers. People emailed me, commented here, and wrote us letters. My aunt Shonda sent a card to Josh several times each month for his entire hospital stay. Those were so awesome. It’s wonderful and encouraging to know you’re being thought of and prayed for.
– One thing that is helpful to remember: It isn’t about you. I don’t say that to be harsh, but to help you understand that some days, your friend or family member might not want you to visit. Some days it’s literally all they can do to find the will to come sit in that hospital room for yet another day, and returning a text is too exhausting. Sometimes they will want to chat nonstop about their child. I’m not saying you have to let them walk all over you or anything; just realize that it is one heck of a roller coaster and 99% of the time, their responses (or lack thereof) have little to do with you or their opinion of you. It’s just exhausting.
– Celebrate the little victories with your friend! My mother-in-law set up an update page on Facebook so we could let people know how Josh was doing, and it filled my dorky little heart with so much joy when people got excited with us because he finally pooped. Their joy encouraged me and I will be forever grateful for it.
Okay, that is really it. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask! But I reserve the right to answer in titles of Britney Spears songs. And to tell you about my Baby One More Time.