If you are a friend, family member, or co-worker to a NICU parent, here is my advice to you on how to help them.
1. Don’t tell her you understand her situation unless you’ve been through it.
Never say you understand, because you can’t unless you’ve been through it as well. You can’t understand what this woman is going through. A million hectic motions rush through her mind each minute. And while it may hurt you to see them going through this, don’t allow yourself to unintentionally put the focus on yourself. You may be the stability they need when it feels like their world is crashing down around them.
2. Offer love, not judgement.
People couldn’t seem to understand why I had such strict rules when we got home. I did everything I could to accommodate that my daughter was happy and healthy, regardless of whether or not it hurt someone’s feelings. If you see a NICU parent doing things differently than what you did with yours, it is just best to keep your thoughts to yourself. There is a reason they are doing what they are doing. Be there when they need or advice or help with the baby, but don’t try to tell them how to care for their child. Taking care of a premature baby is a totally different ball game than a full-term baby.
3. Be a shoulder to cry on, sometimes nothing said is best.
Don’t use the expressions, “It was meant for her to be born early,” or “At least you are getting some sleep at night.”
I did not rest one second that my daughter was in the NICU, it was actually much easier when we got home. Nothing would quite eat me up and make me want to go crazy psycho NICU Mommy like someone telling me it was God’s will for my baby to suffer or that at least I was getting sleep at night. It was NOT God’s will for her to suffer, and you should count yourself blessed if you are losing sleep over them being at home with you needing affection than to be losing sleep worrying about them making it to be able to get them home.
4. Offer to help her clean house or bring over a meal
While it is easy to want to rush over and hold the new baby, depending on the parent’s views of course, I think it is best to give them a little time to adjust. I appreciate that everyone was excited to come see her when we got home and was happy they came to see my daughter, what I really appreciated was when someone took other worries like chores and dinner off my hands so I could snuggle/spend time with my baby and catch up on bonding time from the NICU.
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the moment, but if you want to really help the NICU parent in your life, think about their needs and the fact that they are just now adjusting and getting aqcuainted with their baby, not to mention being able to hold him/her for the first time without a nurse hem when they can or can’t.
5. Stay positive no matter what things may look like
Negativity has no place in our family, that is just a rule we live by. I hated when people told me they felt sorry for my baby girl. To me she was a warrior, and we needed our friends and family to see her through our eyes.
When you have a child in the NICU, you hear so much bad news. You never know what to expect the next day. You pray there are no heart rate drops, problems with eating, breathing problems, sporadic surgeries, or set backs. You need others being positive around you, even if the situation doesn’t look the best. The best thing you can do for the mother or father of a NICU baby is love them and be there for them. Don’t give your opinion or advice on how the situation looks. Just be the rock they need when all around them feels like it is sinking.
Though the experience of having a daughter in the NICU was the most terrifying event of my life, I thank God that she is alive, well, happy, and healthy today. I am thankful to all of our friends and family who made an effort to come see her, to pray for all of us, and to help out in any way they can. If you are going through this, just know there is a light at the end of the tunnel and things get better each day.
soon you will have that beautiful baby home to cuddle and play with. Embrace each and every day. Rely on faith, your family, your friends, and your will to have hope and persevere to keep going.
You will make it through this soon, and you will look back on your experience and able to help others who might be going through the same thing.