Giving Back after a NICU Stay
Having a premature baby in NICU brings struggles, but it can also bring new connections with NICU staff and fellow preemie moms. In celebration of World Prematurity Day Nov. 17, learn how you can honor your preemie by giving back.
Having a child in NICU—be it one day, one week, one month or beyond– is a life-changing experience.
You are incredibly dependent on the skills and support of others. With sometimes multiple visits to the NICU per day, you begin seeing the NICU staff more frequently than your best friends, family members—perhaps even your partner or other children at home.
Natalie, born at 32 weeks, and today at age 7.
At times, we preemie moms can feel indebted to these new, precious people in our lives beyond hugs and thank yous. Parents who have had a preemie pass away are also often looking for a way to give back in memory of their child.
After my first premature pregnancy at 20 weeks, I took some time to let my body and mind heal. Within a few months, I was aching for a way to give back.
“I’ll volunteer to straighten up magazines in waiting rooms!” I thought. Anything to provide some assistance to other families and the hospital staff.
That’s about the time I saw a March of Dimes billboard on my morning commute. I called my local chapter and asked how I could help. I expected them to say I could fold brochures or work at a phone bank asking for money. Instead, I learned more about the organization’s mission by serving on the local board of directors. I learned that funds raised by March of Dimes help support medical research for prematurity, support families in NICUs–and much more.
To make it a family affair, we annually host a family walk team at our city’s annual March of Babies. Some years we raise $200. One year we raised more than $800. However, the best part is talking with my girls about why we are walking. It’s also a great way to help educate my social network about prematurity.
Natalie, a 32 weeker, at a Tulsa March for Babies.
A walk might not be for your family. Here are a few ways you could give back to other preemie families or the NICU where your preemie stayed.
CELEBRATE AN ANNIVERSARY.
Pick an anniversary-
–-your child’s birthday or NICU release day–and visit your NICU to celebrate the milestone. Hand-drawn posters or cards to the NICU staff would be a sweet thanks for their care. Pinterest has many ideas for cute, themed thank-you gifts for hospital staff.
COMFORT A FAMILY.
Ronald McDonald House offers a comfortable home-away-from-home stay when a family has a child in the hospital. If you have a local House, call and see what urgent needs they may have. Ask if you can bring baked goods, a catered or home-cooked meal to the House with a note of encouragement from your family. Coloring or activity books and other recreation items would be great for siblings staying in the house.
HOST A DRIVE.
Coordinate with a lead NICU staff member for items that would make the biggest impact for families and staff. Then, rally your network and host a drive. Some ideas include books or magazines for family meeting
s rooms, art supplies for crafts and door signs, preemie clothes, crocheted preemie hats, or coffee and snacks for a break room.
Social media is a fantastic way to connect to other preemie moms. You can ask for advice on your preemie’s adjusted milestones or give comfort to mom posting from her baby’s NICU room. On Facebook, look for groups about NICU life or preemie parents. On Instagram, search hashtags related to #NICULIFE #NICUMOM or #PREEMIEMOM.
Leah with NICU journal My Preemie Baby Book.
It’s been my honor to post guest blogs this month about prematurity to create more awareness for the one in 10 babies born too soon and the incredible strength of the families who support and nurture them.
Leah Harper is a Tulsa-based mother of two preemies and founder of Preemie Mom Camp, a blog where preemie moms can find comfort and community while they navigate the NICU journey and to celebrate their preemie’s milestones. Portions of this article were originally published here.
Join the conversation about life in NICU and preemie mom life on Instagram at @PreemieMomCamp.