Premature child birth comes with a lot of anxiety and stress. It is an emotionally and physically exhausting journey, and very time consuming. There is a lot of uncertainty during this period. Empathize a lot and try to understand the parents.
There is the constant fear and threat of death looming over their heads. This is a time to show friendship and support to such a family. When offering support, please be specific rather than ask the parents to let you know if they need help. For sure, I guarantee you, they do need your help.
Here are ways that you can be of help to such a family.
Prayers, prayers, prayers…can’t say enough of this. Holding someone’s hand and praying with them over an issue they are experiencing can bring a lot of peace and go a long way. You can even call and pray together on phone. Please do this constantly.
Don’t overlook the baby shower – Go ahead and celebrate this baby just like you would do others. Organize the surprise shower a week before the baby is due from the hospital. You will need to be mindful of the gifts. A premature baby might not be able to use most of the items given at a baby shower especially for newborns such as clothes, diapers, this is because they have minute diapers that are specialized for them, in the incubators, they rarely wear the clothes as the incubators are kept warm enough for them. However you can buy items for the baby for home use and future use.
SUPPORT IN THE HOSPITAL
Offer to purchase car parking tickets for them. If you can, please drop and pick them (mom/dad) to and fro to the hospital. This can help them to avoid the hospital parking tickets which can be very costly in addition to saving them on the transportation costs.
Offer to purchase hospital restaurant meals for the moms (dads) especially for lunch as most hospitals don’t provide for these parents during the NICU/NHDU stay. It is also much cheaper to pack for them lunch and snacks from home.
Gift them with a camera for the nurses to be able to capture some moments when the parents are not around. Most moms are normally discharged to commute daily to the hospital but the babies stay behind in the hospital for some time.
Send a book, cards and magazines to the parents. Books that can be read to the baby and magazines for parents’ entertainment.
Help with the bill; NICU journey is a very expensive affair. Please offer and send financial support. You can even rally up a collection of funds from various sources.
Offer Accomodation. Most parents live away from their homes because they had to travel to hospital centers with NICU services. Offer accommodation if you are able to incase they live in a different city. Help in any way you can.
SUPPORT AT HOME
If you are sick even if a slight cold, please stay away from the baby’s environment. A little exposure can make the baby critically ill.
Check and confirm with the parents before visiting. Most times are spent in the hospital or if not, the parents might want some time alone. Your company is very important, don’t distance yourself. Keep on checking on them.
When you visit, offer to bring meals or prepare meals for them. Don’t go visiting expecting to be entertained like the normal times.
Offer to do shopping or surprise them with groceries. Equally offer to do other house chores that you can identify. For example running errands such as paying bills etc. Offer to tidy their home when visiting.
You might not be able to see the baby, don’t be offended. Premature babies are very fragile and the parents might choose not to expose the baby at all. Please respect their wishes.
Most premature babies have problems breathing, when visiting please avoid very strong scents.
Offer to wash your hands thoroughly and most of the time without having to be asked of. The parents will really appreciate. Use sanitizers too if provided.
When away and not doing home visits, stay in touch. Send messages, please don’t take offense if you do not get a reply. They will appreciate that you are thinking of them.
Say positive things, don’t tell of all the negativity you have heard surrounding premature child birth. Listen more and talk less. Letting the parents talk of their experience can be therapeutic, let them talk and share their experience if they want to. Don’t offer pieces of advice unless you are asked to.
Please don’t try to analyze with them the reason why they have had a preemie. Believe me, preemie moms (parents) can be full of guilt. Themselves they would have analyzed over and over again what wrong they might have committed. Refrain from making them feel guilty.
If you have heard a preemie before, share your experience, what worked and what did not work for you. Preemie parents are normally happy to hear such stories of hope and encouragement.
Admire the baby’s photos even if it looks strange to you. To the parents they are very special and are their tiny mighty fighters. Preemies can sometimes not look like full term babies since they were not fully developed in the womb. For example their skin may appear wrinkled. But eventually they catch up.
Offer to look after the other siblings. You can drop and pick them up from school or take them out for fun activities.