How to Be an Angel to a NICU Family

To say my family’s journey to the NICU was unexpected would be an ENORMOUS understatement. If you had told 8-month-pregnant-me, reporting for her last day of work for the school year that I would be holding my first baby three hours after I left school, I would have laughed you out of the room. And yet, that’s exactly what happened.

I wasn’t feeling quite right when I went into work on Navigation that morning, so I decided to go to my OB after the school day was done, just to confirm what I thought was false labor. When I got to the Medical Center, the doctor found that my water had broken, and baby had to come that day. My husband rushed from work, still in full police uniform {glock and all}, and joined me in the OR. I held that tiny 5 pound 7 oz. bundle, and I was astounded at how perfect life was. 

But then, it wasn’t.How to Be an Angel to a NICU Family | Houston Moms Blog

We soon found that our daughter couldn’t maintain her blood sugar levels or her temperature. The pediatrician decided to transfer her to NICU. My baby left my arms, and my heart broke.

Then, reality set in. She was five weeks early. Five weeks. We had in no way prepared for her to come this early, and no one in our family, except my brother, lives in town. In fact, they live literally across the country in Michigan.

Doctors. Nurses. Feedings. Sugar level checks every two hours, and our baby wasn’t getting better. In fact, because she couldn’t nurse, she was getting worse. 

It was at that time that our Texas family came in to offer us calm and comfort in our storm. All of our friends, by God’s grace, knew exactly what to do for us, and they acted quickly to lift our spirits and help us through this time. They were truly our angels.

There are so many ways you can be an angel to a NICU family in their time of turmoil. How to Be an Angel to a NICU Family | Houston Moms Blog

Feed Them

With everything going on, we literally forgot to eat. My food was covered by the hospital for my stay, but my husband’s was not. My school quickly got a meal signup sheet together, and people actually brought us food in the hospital. They continued to do so weeks after we got home. It was physically and emotionally nourishing to know people cared about us and our baby. If a family you know is staying longer in NICU, you can still offer to bring them snacks, pack lunches for them, or get them restaurant gift cards that they can use as they visit their bab{ies}.

Ask what they need

Many times when women go into preterm labor, they don’t have all the baby gear they need. We didn’t even have a car seat to take our baby home. My husband’s coworkers came to the rescue on that one and brought one to the hospital for us. In the meantime, our friends still held the baby shower {which I missed, because it was scheduled for the day AFTER I had Charlotte} and delivered everything to How to Be an Angel to a NICU Family | Houston Moms Blogour house. They even gave us a bassinet to borrow which was ready for Charlotte when we got home. 

Another expensive item for NICU families can be parking. Every time you check out of the hospital parking lot, you have to pay a fee. Consider getting a pool together to pay for “baby visits” for the family. With mounting hospital bills in NICU, it will be one less item for the parents to stress about.

Also think of  gifiting “baby gear” items specific for NICU babies like hats and socks or footie pajamas. Upon discharge from NICU, my pediatrician did not allow Charlotte to be without a hat or socks until she was two months old {as a precaution because of her preemie status}. Temperature regulation can still be a bit tricky for little ones, so these clothing items are must-haves. Side note :: footie pajamas that snap versus zip are best in case the little one has leads/wires for monitoring attached to their little feet.

Reach out, but understand if they don’t answer back right away

The amount of medical professionals you talk to when your baby is in NICU is astounding. Pediatricians, NICU nurses, lactation consultants, your OB, your nurse, case workers, the list goes on. {We actually joked when Thompson was born two years later, and did not go into NICU, that we felt like we were on vacation.} My schedule would usually go as follows. Go up to NICU. Try to nurse. Come back to my room. Pump. Talk to at least one doctor. Answer texts/calls for 30 minutes. Repeat. Every 3 hours. Seeing those messages, even if I couldn’t get to them right away, was so helpful, because we knew people were praying for us and wishing our little family the best.

How to Be an Angel to a NICU Family | Houston Moms Blog

Offer to run errands or help with childcare

My brother stayed at our house when we were gone, took care of our dog, and got our mail. For those that have other children at home, offer to help watch them.

Additionally, if the mother has had a C-section, and can’t drive herself to the hospital, offer to drive her, so she can get back to the hospital and care for her baby.

Be ready to listen and visit if they invite you

Because most of our family lives far away, the birth of our child was completely a solitary affair, and as the stresses of NICU mounted, it was difficult to endure. Wanting to share our daughter, and not knowing how long she would stay in NICU, we invited our friends, who have become family, to meet her. This helped us to feel more of a sense of normalcy about her birth instead of the dread that she was a NICU baby.

*Please note if you are invited to visit NICU, you must be in excellent health. So if you’re feeling even a little under the weather, simply explain that to the parents, and offer support in another way.*

How to Be an Angel to a NICU Family | Houston Moms Blog

We were blessed. Our journey in NICU was not a long one. Charlotte was completely discharged on her seventh day. When we brought our sweet gift home, we found that our NICU angels had decorated our house with little pink baby boots to welcome us. I still tear up when I think of that time and just how blessed we were to have people to take care of us when we didn’t know how to take care of ourselves.

To all of those who helped us in thoughts, prayers, visits, texts, or gifts, even though it’s four years later, I still cannot thank you enough.

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