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Expecting the Unexpected: Supporting a Mom with Baby in the NICU

Judah Williams born at 32 weeks

In my last post, I wrote and you lovely readers responded about some things you can expect if the unthinkable happens and your baby needs a visit to the NICU.  Today I’d like to share some ways to support a mom who has a baby in the NICU.

When Judah was in the NICU, I know that things would have been much harder, much more stressful, and much more exhausting if I had not had the support from friends and family that I received.  Here are some things that truly helped me.

1. Text.  This sounds silly but seriously, a simple text that can be answered during a down minute is much better than trying to field and return phone calls (for most of us moms this is true even what baby is NOT in the NICU).

2. Offer to coordinate meals.  Food Tidings is one of my favorite sites and allows someone to quickly create a meal schedule to help out a family in need.  A link to the schedule can be shared on their facebook wall or through email allowing friends and family to sign up.  Super easy.

3. Ask for specific needs or ask to coordinate things that she needs done.  This was so key for me.  I had a million things to be done and had one person volunteer to coordinate it all.  It really helped me be able to focus on the baby and my kids at home without having to think of who to call for help.  My “coordinator” sent people to clean my house, grocery shop, do laundry, help watch kids so I could sleep or go to the NICU and much more.  It was such an amazing help.

4. If you’re running to the store, find out if they have any needs.  This was mentioned in #3 and it was a HUGE help for me.  Also, one of my girls had major dietary restrictions and I had a couple friends bake foods just for her so I wouldn’t have to worry about it.  Find out if there are any things like that that can be done.

5. Be specific.  Blanket “if you need anything…call me…” statements are good, but in the chaos of the days, really offered little help.  I was most blessed by friends and family who took the lead and offered to do specific things.

6. Offer support and love without platitudes.  As I said in my last post, the NICU is super emotional.  Saying things like “baby will be home before you know it” was never received as a comfort – mainly because you don’t know when baby is coming home and in some cases…if baby comes home.

One thing is for sure, any support you offer a mom who has a baby in the NICU is appreciated.  From the small and minute to the extravagant and time consuming, NICU moms need all the support they can get.

 

Many of these things can be applied to any mom in need.  Do you have other ideas?  If you were a NICU mom, is there anything I missed?  What were some ways you were blessed by others?

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5 Responses to Expecting the Unexpected: Supporting a Mom with Baby in the NICU

  1. Sarah July 25, 2012 at 8:14 am #

    Great post, Abbi. I love the idea of a “coordinator” role. That sounds like a lifesaver – after all, it’s not helpful if the mom in need has to be the one organizing everybody!

  2. Veronica E July 25, 2012 at 9:24 am #

    These are great! I would also add to leave notes or comments on blogs and to not avoid talking about it. I have one friend who had a 25 weeker that was in NICU for several months and another whose child was not in the NICU but has a life threatening illness. Both created blogs or care sites to relay daily updates of procedures. Both said they appreciated comments that showed friends were following and supporting in that way rather than friends who never made comments because they didn’t know what to say or those that avoided the topic. The latter is especially true if baby does not come home.

  3. Amie @ Itsystitch July 25, 2012 at 10:21 am #

    We had preemie twin girls, born at 25 weeks. We spent 6 months in the NICU, endured 9 major operations, and only one of our girls survived. The most helpful things we received were childcare help for our other children (wish we would have had more help like this), and gas cards (driving to and from the NICU was pretty costly, as we were 45 mins away). Honestly, the comments like “They’ll be fine, they just need to grow” are so very insulting, esp when I would hear them after just having watched someone resuscitate my daughter. I’m sure meals would have been helpful also, but we did not have anyone offer to do this for us. I also highly recommend taking photos of your baby(ies) even if it’s not something you necessarily feel like doing. Mya died when she was 6 months old, and I regret not taking more photos of her, I was just always so pre-occupied with her health. I AM a photographer, and I still did not take enough photos. Now I volunteer to take free NICU portraits for other babies because of my experience. I’ve photographed over 40 babies, some who made it home, some who did not, and though it’s a small gift, most parents are so glad to have them.

  4. Annie G July 26, 2012 at 5:07 pm #

    This is a wonderful post, as is your first on having a preemie! I had a 28 weeker, and was also blessed by an incredible community with thoughtful support and lots of meals and childcare!
    I’d add restaurant gift cards for the Daddy at home with the kids, & gifts can be dropped off at the NICU with a note and no expectation of the Mother sharing her precious time with baby. I would have especially enjoyed receiving chocolate, somethings to brighten up the room, and you know – just the little things people give a mama who just had a baby 🙂 Because, although it’s a scary and uncertain time, any new life is worth celebrating!
    Cash was such a practical thing – for cafeteria meals, a quick coffee, a treat from the gift shop- it takes away the guilt of buying a little something for myself.
    This is a great resource to share with other Mamas! Thanks!

  5. Brooke Arellano July 30, 2012 at 12:46 am #

    When my daughter was in the NICU at Scottsdale Healthcare Shea we were lucky enough to take advantage of the wonderful generosity of Bennett’s House charity. Through this charity they paid for our accommodations at a local hotel for the 3 weeks that my daughter was in the NICU. This amazing gift allowed me to spend a much time as possible at the hospital and gave me the peace of mind that I was less than a minute away. I will forever be grateful to this charity and donate whenever I can!

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