Ways to Help a NICU Family
Ways to Help a NICU Family (and a momma on bedrest)
September is NICU Awareness month and my one year anniversary of when my water broke at 26.6 weeks is quickly approaching. To spread awareness and help support other families, I thought it would be helpful to list some ways to help a family that is in the NICU/Hospitalized Bedrest.
If you are new and don’t know my story, you can read my first blog post here. To sum it up, my water broke at 26.6 weeks pregnant and I was on hospitalized bedrest for a little over 7 weeks until Attley arrived at 33.1. She spent 5 long weeks in the NICU learning how to eat and gain weight. Since I had some bedrest time before our time in the NICU, some of these ideas are more applicable for bedrest but most can be used for either life altering event. I hope they are helpful and spread some love to others who go on this life changing journey!
Meals- Let me just start off by saying, hospital meals get old. I had an amazing friend set up a “Meal Train” for us and people signed up to bring us meals. Many of the meals were double batches where was made to be frozen. This was incredibly helpful because it was a meal to replace hospital food and then was a meal after Attley came home and we were navigating life with a preemie. Another helpful meal option was Bite Squad. We got a gift card where they would deliver food to us from local restaurants around the hospital. This allowed Matt and I have to eat a few decent meals when we were spending time with Attley in the evenings. InstaCart was also a great help. This allowed me to grocery shop from the hospital and have food delivered to the house for Matt and Emmett. Lastly, food gift cards are great. Extra bonus points if the gift card is for a restaurant/fast food joint close to the hospital. We also really enjoyed coffee shop gift cards. This was a special treat we would have on weekends and allowed me to get some pumpkin spice during the fall season.
Home/Household- This one was hard for me. Cleaning/chores go out the window when your life is turned upside down and if you are like me, it is really hard to ask for help. Especially when all you need is someone to clean your dirty house. Thankfully, I am blessed with amazing family who were willing to clean our house-- Thank you mom and Timmy. However, in hindsight, I would have loved for a cleaning gift card...I don’t even know if those exist but it would have been amazing to have someone come in and clean our house a few times during the 12 weeks when I was living in the hospital and taking care of Attley. Lawn chores are another thing that can be an added stressor when you don’t have time to deal with them. Again, we were blessed with amazing family who mowed our lawn, raked our leaves, and kept our yard looking nice. This took a huge stress off Matt and allowed him to spend his weekends with me at the hospital. We also had a neighbor buy us holiday plants to put outside our front door. Although, it was not a necessity it was so comforting to have our house looking festive.
Childcare- Since this all happened with our second child, Matt and I had to get very creative with childcare for our son, Emmett. The first week I was on bedrest he lived with Matt’s parents. After that week, we navigated between family members willing to help out as well as an amazing hospital that allowed Emmett to spend the night when we wanted. If there is no local family, offering childcare can go a long way. Childcare is expensive and when you are away from your child, you want them in the best care possible. Even if it is just an hour or two, this can allow the parents to have some time.
Company- This one is more applicable to being on bedrest but I think it is important for NICU families as well. I was so incredibly blessed to have visitors almost every single day that I was on bedrest in the hospital. This was one of the biggest blessings out of my bedrest journey. I had so many people reach out and offer to come visit, keep me company, bring me coffee, and just chat. This was a lifesaver and I am blessed to be surrounded by incredible people. NICU policies make it hard to have visitors but even meeting in the hospital coffee shop or bringing them an afternoon treat, can break up a long day in a hospital room with your little one learning how to survive. Most of the time in the NICU, you are in a darkened room with constant beeping sounds and surrounded by people that are strangers. A friendly face or someone to decompress/vent/cry/chat with is so incredibly helpful and much needed at such a stressful time.
Rides/Parking- Hospitals are a pain when it comes to location and parking. When Attley was in the NICU, my aunt drove me to the hospital almost everyday so that I didn't need to pay for parking or stress over finding a parking spot. Most hospitals have parking passes that become an additional financial stress for the family. I had a generous friend give me money to buy a full week parking pass. It was nice to not stress about parking when going back and forth multiple times a day.
Gifts- I have a tremendous amount of generous people in my life who gave so many wonderful gifts while on bedrest and in the NICU. They included: movies, magazines, books, toys for Emmett, sweets, outfits for baby, coloring books, craft supplies, notebooks, markers, and decorations for my hospital room. We also received gift cards for: Amazon, Kindle, iTunes, fast food chains, and Target. I still get overwhelmed by the generosity of our friends and family. Each gift given, was used and so appreciated.
If the family you want to help is like us, it can be really, really hard to ask for help. If the family says they don’t want help, I promise you, they need it. However, sometimes people need time to process and figure everything out. If they don’t answer right away, give them some time and they will reach out when they are ready. Bedrest is hard but the NICU is harder. If your child is in for one day or over one hundred days, it is an emotional rollercoaster, draining, scary, and life changing. Just sending the family positive thoughts and prayers during this time can make a huge difference. While, I don’t want anyone to go through what we went through, I know that it will happen again so I hope this post serves other families in a positive way and I thank each person for everything they did for us during our bedrest and NICU journey.
Below are 4 pictures: (1) the day Attley was born (2) spending time with daddy in the NICU (3) Thanksgiving Day (4) the day we brought Attley home on Christmas Eve