By Lauren H,RN, BSN
No one plans on a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) stay when they are planning on starting or expanding their family. If your baby has been admitted to the NICU, odds are you are feeling pretty overwhelmed right now. You may be grieving the loss of your "Normal Delivery,” or grieving the fact that you did not get to take your baby home with you when you were discharged from the hospital. All of these feelings are totally normal for you to be feeling as a NICU Mom. Your friends and family are probably unsure of what to say or how to help. As an experienced NICU Nurse, here is what families have shared with me over the years and you can pass along to your friends and family who would like to help.
1. Household Needs:
Having a baby in the NICU is a crisis. And when you are in crisis, most things fall to the way-side. Things like cleaning your home, grocery shopping, cooking meals, doing laundry, etc. Something easy for your friends and family to do is to pick up the slack. Ask your friends to make a grocery run, bake a few casseroles and easy to prep dinners, or tidy up the house. You may have other children whose daily routines you want to keep as normal as possible and you’ll need help doing this. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance! All of these favors can help you focus your energy toward healing yourself and your baby.
2. Pack Me A Lunch:
You will spend a lot of time commuting back and forth to the hospital to visit your baby. You will probably spend hours at a time at your baby's bedside. Hospital food can get old real quick and hospital cafeteria hours may not always work around you or your baby's schedule. Having your friends or family put together some packed lunches that you can grab on the way out the door is a wonderful way to keep your energy. Think easy-to-eat items such as fruit, almonds, or granola bars. This way you can refuel yourself while also visiting your baby. And don’t forget to stay hydrated. Having a water bottle on you at all times is also a good idea as it’s just as important to take care of yourself, so that you can take care of your baby.
3. Offer Me A Ride:
Most likely you will be discharged and go home before your baby. Depending on what kind of delivery you had (vaginal/cesarean) or how long you stay on pain medications, you may not be cleared to drive for up to two weeks post-delivery. Some moms have partners who decide to go straight back to work until the baby is able to come home. Depending on your specific situation or partner’s schedule, you may not have a mode of transportation to see your baby. This can be stressful for a lot of moms. Having your friends or family take turns offering you rides to and from the hospital can be a great way to relieve some stress and help you to visit your baby when you want.
4. Offer Your Compassion & Encouragement:
Most people have never stepped foot beyond the doors of the NICU unless they have had a child there themselves or have worked in one. Because of this, most people probably don't know what to say to you and other people may have too much to say. No NICU journey is like any other. However, having the support and understanding of your friends and family will be important. You will ultimately decide how much information you want to share and with whom and you should ask them to respect that. Some days will be easier than others. Some days you may want to talk about it and other days you may just want to cry. But letting people know what you need when you need it, will help your friends and family support you every step of the way.