Thursday, April 23, 2015

6 Ways to Help a Family with a Baby in the NICU

{Micah is five today. It's been five years since his birth and his diagnosis and his NICU stay. It's something I would never choose to relive yet it's shocking that it's been so long. And it seems like lately I've had friend after friend with a baby in the hospital. You probably have too.}

The strangest sensation of the NICU was the knowledge that outside those walls the world was going on like normal. Unaware, uncaring that my heart was lying in a hospital bed fighting for his life. That my heart was barely beating because I was holding my breath in case it helped. That my heart was breathing out prayers incoherent to other people. 

While I was watching monitors other moms were putting children down for naps or going grocery shopping. People were romping around parks, watching movies, and commuting to work while I was wondering which direction life was going to go. It's an eerie feeling. 

But other people can reach you there, giving strength in what can only be weakness. Bolstering your faith with their prayers, encouraging your heart with their generosity, feeding your body with the work of their hands. 

There are things you can do to help a family in the NICU- because if the baby is there, the family is all there in one way or another. 

1. Pray. Pray specifically. Pray often. Pray for the parents. Let the family know you are praying. And then do it. Don't just say it and then forget. Do it. 

2. Offer assistance. Offer to care for older children. Offer to do laundry, drop off food, sit with the baby at the hospital. Offer to clean the house, shuttle other children to appointments, offer to sit and listen. 

3. Send money. NICU's are expensive. The sicker your baby is the more expensive it is. The expenses pile up quickly. The parents may need to stay at a hotel near the hospital or get care for their older children. They're going to need to eat. They are going to need to buy gas. (One of the neatest things we received was a gift card to the cafeteria at the hospital.)

4. Ask questions. Ask how the baby is. Ask how the mama is. Ask how the daddy is. Then listen without judgment and repeat steps one and two. 

5. Encourage the parents to take care of themselves. I remember struggling to choke down a few bites when Micah in the NICU. But a sick mama and a sick baby helps no one. They need to eat, sleep, and shower. Maybe even stand outside in the sunlight for five minutes. 

6. Keep up with events via Caring Bridge or a blog. Text, fb message, or email the family but don't expect a response. It will mean a lot to know that you asked even if they don't have the time or resources to respond promptly. 

Having a sick baby is a road that no one expects to walk. But we can all go alongside someone that's traveling it. 

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