Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Helping Your Friend With a Baby in the NICU


 When a close friend or family member is in the midst of a trial that you've never experienced personally, it can be difficult to know how to help them through. We fumble in the dark for the right words, and do our best to meet any needs we observe, but for the most part we are guessing. It can be helpful when someone who's been there before tells us what our friend might need physically or emotionally. In light of this fact, I thought I'd share ways you can encourage your friend who's baby is hospitalized.

1. Be there. This goes with most trials, sometimes your presence is the greatest comfort of all. I'll never forget how our dear friend Jen rushed to the hospital as soon as she heard I was going for an emergency C-section. She stayed in the waiting room for two hours, not knowing if she'd even see us or if she could be of use. Sure enough when Niall came out after I'd woken up and before we could visit the baby, Jen was there to keep him company while he ate some dinner. She then moved all of the stuff from my old room to my recovery room, freeing Niall to be with me and the baby. What a blessing!

2. Listen. Again, this is something a friend will appreciate in any trial. Don't tell your friend how lucky she is that her baby is okay; she knows it and is glad, but is still grieving the difficult arrival and missing out on a fun and normal full term pregnancy and delivery. Let her talk, and speak affirming words as it is appropriate. It will be good for her to hear that you think she is a good mommy (for pumping milk and spending hours at baby's bedside), because she might not feel like a real mom yet. Also, please don't ask if her baby is going to make it, or how soon before the baby is "out of the water." She probably doesn't really know, and it is a reality she'd rather not dwell on unless absolutely necessary. This can add to her stress and pain.


 3. Meet pressing needs. If you have the financial capability and desire to do so, gifts of money can be very helpful. Praise God, we had excellent health insurance and only had to pay a small deductible for S, but her hospital bills were well over $132,000! If someone is uninsured or has poor quality health insurance, they might have a real serious need for funds. Also, spending long days in the hospital makes cooking difficult, so meals can be a great blessing. This is another area that made me so grateful for the godly and generous friends the Lord has given us! Different friends brought meals for weeks, as well as giving gift cards and money specifically for quick dinners. Gas cards can be handy too if your friend lives far from the hospital.

4. Give fun or helpful gifts. Maybe a cute preemie outfit will encourage and excite your friend (any baby gift could bring a little joy at the expectation of bringing baby home). Books on prematurity can also be useful. When I was reading books about preemies, I felt like I was actually doing something to help her! Books I found to be particularly interesting or helpful include, The Premature Baby Book by Dr. Sears, The Preemie Primer by Dr. Jen Gunter (an OB and mom to preemie triplets), 124 NICU Days by Ryan Rhodes, and A Love that Multiplies by the Duggars.

Helpful Resources
5. Help her escape. Long hours in the hospital can be very draining after several weeks. As long as your friends baby is stable, grab her for a coffee date or a quick bite to eat. Before S came so early, my friend Amy and I had planned to go garage sailing some Saturday. These plans were thwarted by bed rest, but a few weeks after S's birth, she encouraged me to join her one sunny weekend. It was my first time anywhere but the hospital or home in about a month, so how good it felt to grab some coffee from Dunkin and get out with a good friend! She may feel guilty about leaving baby's bedside, but a few hours here and there are essential to mental health and regaining a sense of normalcy.

6. Pray, and ask everyone you know to pray. I am still encouraged when I meet someone for the first time and they recognize my name instantly. "Oh, we were praying for your little girl!" The prayers of the universal Church on our behalf were a HUGE blessing to Niall and I through our ordeal. Your friend will be encouraged by God's grace through His people. Let her know you are praying.

Those of you who've been here before, what would you add to the list?

3 comments:

  1. This post reminded me of when my brother was born. Today, he's 15 and 6'2", but before he was born, he developed a condition that caused his lungs to fill up with fluid. After a very high-risk pregnancy, he was born full-term, but he didn't get to come home until he was about three months old. We all (both parents and three little girls) practically lived at the hospital for those months, and the help we received from friends was priceless. This is great advice!

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    Replies
    1. Wow, that must have been very difficult for your family! S was in the hospital only two months, and I know it took a toll on us, even without other kids at home. Glad you found this useful!

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