Having someone you know and love deliver a baby prematurely can be scary. Often times loved ones are unsure of what to do and what to say during this stressful time.
Friend, I know you mean well. Here are some thoughts gathered from former NICU parents on how to support during the journey.
1. Let the parents know you love them and are there for them . . . but give them space if they need it. They may not be ready to share every detail about the birth of their new preemie warrior.
2. Keep the sniffles away. If you are sick, send your love, don’t bring it to the parents or into the NICU. Premature babies are very susceptible and can get very ill from even the smallest cold. If you’re not feeling too hot, it’s best to keep your germs from the parents and the baby; they will appreciate you thinking about them and won’t mind if you reschedule. This also goes for when baby comes home!
3. Food! Oftentimes, NICU parents are so focused on the health and care of their little one, they forget to take care of themselves! This includes eating. Dropping off some home-cooked meals, snacks to take to the hospital or gift cards for coffee or food can be super helpful for parents.
4. Offer to care for other children or pets in the household. Sometimes Mom and Dad just want to visit the baby and are unable to because they can’t bring their other littles into the unit. Offer to take them for a few hours!
5. Ask parents if they’d like company while they sit in the NICU. The days in the unit can be very long and often a visit from a friendly face may comfort the parents. Sit and chat with them, and offer a listening ear. They may not want to talk and your presence may be all they need.
6. Gift them books, crossword puzzles and other small activities that they can do while they are there.
7. Try to think about comments that may be hurtful. Parents know that these situations can be uncomfortable for you when visiting or asking about the baby and sometimes when people are uncomfortable they may make comments that mean no harm, but can be painful. Comments like “You get out of being super pregnant”, “You get to sleep at night without a baby waking you” “Everything happens for a reason” etc. can be very upsetting to new preemie parents. Best thing to do is just listen when they want to chat and think a bit before saying anything. Any preemie mother would give anything for sleepless nights and a longer pregnancy if they could.
8. Be understanding. If Mom or Dad are not calling you back or being distant, they may just be processing. These situations affect everyone differently; show them grace.
9. Pray with and for them.
10. Know you are loved and appreciated even if you aren’t told. The fact that you are interested in helping the parents get through this time shows you are going to be a special person in this family’s life.