Wednesday is my regular “top ten” day. The past two years, I’ve had so many people get in touch with me and ask the same question: “I have a friend in the NICU. How can I help?” Oh, do I have a list for you. Read on, my sweet friends. Read. On.
TOP TEN: HOW YOU CAN HELP SOMEONE IN THE NICU
1. Pray. No really, pray. When asked to pray for others, I’ve found that the easiest time to remember to pray was during the dinner hour. We do family prayers before mealtime and it just works for us. As a former NICU parent, it was our toughest time of the day. As we sat down as a family, it was painfully obvious that our newest member wasn’t where he should be. Knowing that other families were lifting us up in prayer during that time was very comforting. It made a really hard part of the day a little easier. Your prayers were felt in so many ways – and still are.
2. When you offer to help, make it specific. Sometimes, we just don’t even know what we need until someone offers to do “X.” So, be the X. As awesome as it was for a friend to say, “Let us know if you need ANYTHING.” I wasn’t sure if that meant, “Hey, I’m happy to go buy you grandma underwear at Wal-Mart because you had a c-section and I know how bad that hurts” OR if it meant, “Hey, do you need someone to pick up a loaf of bread?” Both are important, but they are on either end of the TMI spectrum. Know what kind of friend you are and own it. For the record, I had friends who did both those things for me 🙂
3. Drop off a goodie bag with awesome smelling hand gel, hand lotion, little packages of Kleenex and a stain stick. a) the hand gel in the hospital is brutal and smells absolutely horrific, b) your hands are completely raw from scrubbing 8,000 times a day, c) the tissues in the hospital are like wiping your nose with sandpaper dipped in acid and d) when your baby messes up an outfit, the nurses can apply the stain remover so it doesn’t set before you can get it home and in the washing machine. Brilliant!
4. Cook a meal and make sure it can be frozen, if necessary. I have a whole post on tips for taking meals to people, but trust me when I tell you that those meals are a lifesaver. Sometimes we had so many we had to freeze them to use later. I especially loved people who dropped off meals with disposable dishes. Yea for no washing dishes. Another lifesaver. Oh, and provide the recipe. You people are great cooks and I will completely space on asking you to send me the recipe. If the dinner meal isn’t your gig, consider doing breakfast or bringing over snacks for the kids. Both were awesome.
5. Offer to help with the kids, whether it be before/after school pickup, extracurricular shuttling or anything in between. We had many friends who organized playdates with my kids and that was a help, especially on the days we were trying to be two places at once.
6. We had a group of friends collect money for us, unbeknownst to us. At first, I just didn’t even know what to say. They did it on the sly before I could refuse. I felt very selfish taking that money. You know, it’s just hard to accept, at least it was for me. BUT, we used that money for a much-needed housekeeper, some babysitting and our 8-bazillion medical bills. It was incredibly selfless of them to give it and we were more than humbled.
7. Mow the yard or decorate for a holiday. A group of friends carved pumpkins with my kids. That was so awesome. When a sweet friend had a c-section Scott and I went over and put up her Christmas tree. Sometimes, you just need someone to bring in the normal, you know?
8. Provide spiritual support. One great friend made it a point to bring us weekly communion because we were unable to attend Mass. The priest chaplain at the hospital offered reconciliation in Luke’s hospital room. A complete stranger mailed us a prayer ring with saint and prayer cards attached (they have hung on Luke’s bed for every hospital stay!) Another friend started a Novena for us. Several more spent hours in adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Dozens of friends posted on facebook and blogs a prayer request for Luke’s healing. Email chains started going at churches all over the country for Luke and our family. As I type, I’m wiping away the tears. The outpouring of God’s love was felt in so many ways. Never discount your act of faith for a child.
9. A very thoughtful friend brought over a nursing cover so I could pump in (somewhat) privacy in the Bay. That same friend brought the softest, most lovely monogrammed blanket for Luke. Again, it has been with us at every hospital visit.
10. For the baby, two gift suggestions are: 1) clothes that wrap around and button in the front rather than onesies that are pulled over the head. When your sweet baby finally graduates to clothes you’re excited! But, they’re still attached to monitors and IV’s so having clothes that are easy to navigate around those are so useful and needed. 2) decorations for the baby’s area. At one hospital, we were in the bay, so cards were really all we could display. A great friend provided us with a ring that we could attach all the cards and hang on Luke’s bed. But, at Dell, we had an entire room to ourselves, so we blinged it out with decorations. One sweet preschool in Illinois sent us that poster on the bottom. Oh my. Steer clear of things that collect germs (stuffed animals, flowers, etc.) and go with cards, picture frames and signed artwork.
ANY act of kindess you offer will be appreciated. I speak from experience. All those little things added up to a mom who had more gratitude than she could hold. My cup runneth over.