An old school friend recently reached out to me. She emailed me to say that, just like me, her baby had been born on NYE, at 28 weeks gestation. I let the tears pour freely down my face as she detailed her traumatic birth to me in an email. I knew exactly what she was going through and my heart broke for her. Her beautiful little preemie would be cared for in the NICU for months to come. I wished that there was something, anything, I could do to ease the anxiety and fear that she was enduring.
I sent her messages of love and support, reminding her that I would be here for her if and when she wanted to talk. I offered her my shoulder to cry on and a hand to hold.
But it didn’t feel like this was enough. I wanted to do something practical to help her!
I thought back to my time as a NICU mum and remembered all the incredible things that friends and family members did to help us.
If you have a friend or relative who currently has a preemie baby in a NICU or a sick child in hospital, I imagine that you are probably desperate to find ways to offer your help and support.
So here are 5 PRACTICAL ways to help a Mum with a child in the hospital.
1. Rent a Car Parking Space
Neonatal Intensive Care Units are almost always located in busy inner city areas. In Australia, parents of seriously ill children that live in rural areas are offered a home-away-from-home through the generosity of the Ronald McDonald house charity.
However, if you live within driving distance to the hospital that is caring for your premature or sick child, you are faced with the daily nightmare of finding a place to park. Hospitals often offer discounted rates at nearby car parks, but when a child is an inpatient for months on end, even the discounted parking adds up! The logistics and cost of parking can add immense strain on an already overwhelmed family.
Renting a car park space within close proximity to the hospital is a thoughtful and practical way of ensuring the family has easy access to their child. Call the hospital switchboard and ask to speak to a social worker. He/she may have advice and suggestions on the best places to rent a car park. Keep in mind that renting a car park spot can be quite expensive so it might be an idea to pool resources together with other friends and family.
2. Stock up the fridge and freezer
This is an obvious one but a lifesaver for any parent! Having a child in the hospital means that mum and dad will barely have the energy to get through each day let alone facing grocery shopping and cooking.
Stocking up the fridge and freezer with a variety of individually portioned, ready to re-heat meals will save time and energy that can be better spent at the hospital. You could even prepare nutritious snack packs or bake lactation cookies to help keep energy levels up!
I love these Freezer Meal Recipes by The Organized Housewife
3. Coordinated Your Efforts With Others
Thoughtful deeds and gifts from friends and family are very much appreciated by any mum with a child in hospital. However, it can also be overwhelming for her to try to maintain ongoing communication with every person who reaches out to offer support and help.
A mum needs to focus all her energy on her baby!
If you, or a group of friends, are planning any act of kindness, see if you can arrange it through a central person who has a close relationship with the mum. Perhaps her best friend or close family member.
For example, if your friendship group is all cooking freezer meals, nominate one person to coordinate the drop off.
4. Arrange a Cafeteria Catch Up
Mumma bear needs her friends and family, now, more than ever. The hospital journey can be long and isolating. To the mum, it can feel as if she now lives at the hospital (because she basically does!).
A way to offer support and to give mum a break from the ward is to suggest meeting up for a coffee and a chat in the hospital cafeteria. Granted, a hospital cafeteria is possibly the most depressing place in the whole world to hang out. However, offering to meet mum in the hospital cafeteria will give her a chance to take a much needed break and receive your love and support, whilst still remaining close enough to the ward that she can return quickly if required.
5. Don’t wait to be asked
I can tell you from my personal experience of being a NICU mum that anyone with a child in the hospital is currently operating in survival mode. You can barely think straight and you don’t have the energy to remember all of the tasks that need tending too. If you can think of errands that need doing, jump right in and do them! Mow the lawn, mind the pets, refuel the car, take the bins out. Every little bit helps.
This post is dedicated to all the incredible people in my life who, in our hour of need, surrounded us with love and kindness. When my son was born prematurely and during his many months in the NICU, we received an outpouring of love, support and generosity. Messages of love and acts of kindness were received not only from close friends and family, but also from our wider community. It was truly overwhelming and humbling in a way that words will never begin to describe.
If you enjoyed reading this article then you may also enjoy ‘THE PREEMIE POSITIVES
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