Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nurses are a special breed. In my view they are warrior heroes – all of them – providing astonishing care to the weakest of infants. NICU nurses are up at all hours working on the front lines as the fragile cling to life.
For a brief time my own son was placed in a NICU, and while I do not credit myself a true NICU survivor (blessedly, my son was never in any real danger), I did have the honor of watching the NICU nurses at work. As I sat there with my baby, submerged in the dark of night, the calm and competence of the NICU nurses put me at ease as the medical equipment beeped on, keeping time like a strange metronome.
Families whose babies warrant NICU admission face high levels of stress.
Supportive gestures for these families, however small, can mean a great deal under the circumstances. In particular, efforts to manage household affairs, older children (if any), and ensuring pets are cared for are more helpful than one might realize. Returning people to a functional home after a stint in the NICU is of top importance, regardless of the outcome.
Give InKind spoke to a NICU nurse who reminded:
“Friends and family should do the best they can to understand that the NICU is a 24/7 place. Offers to help parents may be better directed at caring for their older children, walking their dogs, collecting their mail, or watering their plants.“
As far as care packages go, nurses suggest including tissues, gum or candy, or energy bars. Furthermore, a small notebook and pens for writing down questions might come in handy since fatigue and stress can adversely affect memory. This kind of worrying often makes people cold while waiting at hospital, so for this reason, Scarves are a thoughtful gift, too. Books for parents and infants can help pass the time when holding the baby is not possible. Sending encouraging notes is a lovely gesture as well, and many parents save these after their time in the NICU. Whatever the case, remember to avoid flowers of all kinds or anything scented as this could trigger respiratory issues and would not be permitted in the NICU.
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