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For those who aren’t going through the NICU experience personally but have a family or friend who is and want to help a NICU mom in some type of way then this post is for you. I know it can be just as scary not knowing how to help someone who is going through the unimaginable.
Since having my daughter 15 weeks early I have learned so many things from my journey in the NICU. Before having her I was never exposed to what the NICU entails or how it affects the parents. Read my full pregnancy story here. I never knew how much help as a NICU mom I would end up needing.
It’s overwhelming, stressful and scary. Since being here I have been asked so many times if I have a support system? If so is it strong, and how do they help you? I can not stress this enough that you will need some type of support system you will need help as a NICU mom. It can be family, friends, partner, counselor, a support group but whoever it is lean on them when you are feeling weak or need to talk to someone.
1. Respect their boundaries
Having a baby in the NICU is a very personal and stressful situation for new parents. The parents may not be keen on providing details upfront or allow visitors at the bedside. For my situation, my daughter in the beginning especially was very unstable and her status was constantly changing. People would ask us several times a day for updates and sometimes we didn’t even know what to say. So just know that it can be hard to explain the situation to others so be patient and respect their boundaries if you are not getting updates like you would like.
2. Be specific when offering help
It’s overwhelming and so generous to get offers from so many people but one thing to consider is to be specific when you are offering your help. For example, you can offer to provide a meal or to bring them a meal at the hospital. To help with their animals or other children. Just know the simplest things will mean the world to the parents. I remember when I got home from the hospital my parents had a cleaning service come to our house and we were so grateful as cleaning was the last thought on our minds.
3. Give gift cards for gas stations or restaurants
Coming from a NICU mama you spend a ton of money eating in the cafeteria and gas to and from the hospital. I lived about an hour from the hospital so I defiantly was spending a small fortune to fill my car up. It’s also nice to have dinner at a restaurant with your spouse away from the hospital and feel like a normal person again.
4. Do not visit if you are sick
New parents especially ones with a little one in the NICU are extremely paranoid of illnesses. It’s best to stay home until you are healthy to visit the parents or baby. If the baby gets sick it could cause a major setback in their status. Also, if the parents get sick they are then unable to visit their little one. It’s just not worth it and the parents will completely understand and appreciate it. This will also be the case when the baby is discharged and home. Please be understanding that you visiting is not more important than the health of the baby.
5. Offer words of encouragement
Words of encouragement, thoughts, and prayers are appreciated and can go a long way. It’s always reassuring to know how many people support you and your baby. It can be a simple phone call, text, Facebook message, card in the mail or in person. Also, if the parents don’t respond to your call or text it doesn’t mean it went unnoticed and I can promise you it means a lot to them knowing so many people are in their corner and available for support. Remember what I said in the beginning how important a support system is. Well, that is what you are.
6. Respect their privacy
What I mean by this is don’t assume you can visit the bedside or stop by unannounced. Our hospital is very strict on the number of visitors and requires permission from both parents prior to guests visiting. Also, don’t assume you should receive all the updates and pictures. When I first delivered I was very apprehensive about sharing photos as I wasn’t ready to share those moments with anyone else yet. It took a couple of weeks before I was comfortable with showing her to the outside world. Please be patient and respect the parent’s privacy when it comes to their little one.
7. Continue support even after baby is home
A lot of times the support will stop after the baby is home but that is when the parents will need help the most. Remember they are trying to adjust to having a newborn at home and getting into a routine all on their own without a nurse or doctor around or a monitor hooked up to their little one.
As a mom who has gone through the NICU life herself I can truly say these simple tasks will go a long way in helping a NICU mom who is going through this stressful situation. Try to remember to give the NICU mom the same support that you would like for yourself and it could make a difference in their day.
Have you experience life in the NICU or had a friend or family member who did? If so, what ways did you help them? I would love to hear your stories!