Having a child in NICU—be it one day, one week, one month or beyond– is a life-changing experience.
You are incredibly dependent on the skills and support of others. With sometimes multiple visits to the NICU per day, you begin seeing the NICU staff more frequently than your best friends, family members—-perhaps even your partner or other children at home.
At times, we preemie moms can feel indebted to these new, precious people in our lives beyond hugs, thank yous, and, let’s face it, medical bills. Parents who have had a preemie pass away are also often looking for a way to give back in memory of their child.
After my first premature pregnancy at 20 weeks, I took some time to let my body and mind heal. Within a few months, I was aching for a way to give back.
“I’ll volunteer to straighten up magazines in waiting rooms!” I thought. Anything to provide some assistance to other families and the hospital staff.
That’s about the time I saw a March of Dimes billboard on my morning commute. I called my local chapter and asked how I could help. I expected them to say I could fold brochures or work at a phone bank asking for money. Instead, I learned more about the organization’s mission by serving on the local board of directors. I learned that funds raised by March of Dimes help support medical research for prematurity, support families in NICUs, and much more.
To make it a family affair, each year , we create a family walk team at our city’s annual March of Babies. Some years we raise $200. One year we raised more than $800. However, the best part is talking with my girls about why we are walking. It’s also a great way to help educate my social network about prematurity.
Comments from Campers
I asked on social media if any fellow Campers gave back to their hospital or NICU where their preemie was born. Here’s what they said:
“We did March for Babies. When my daughter turned one, we did a book drive for families in the NICU. Along with books, we collected scrapbook paper to be used for making name signs on NICU rooms. When we celebrated our NICU graduation date, we wrote a special note to the family in our “old room” and placed it in a bag of goodies.
-Amanda G. in Tulsa, Oklahoma
“We also had a March for Babies team for our son! Since then, we’ve also started a support group along with other NICU parents that were there at the same time. We get together at least twice a month and let the babies play while we vent to each other. We also swap clothes and toys and other baby items. It makes it a lot easier to cope.”
–Krissy M. in Poughkeepsie, New York
Five Ways Preemie Moms Can Give Back After a NICU Stay
1. CELEBRATE AN ANNIVERSARY.
Pick an anniversary-–-your child’s birthday or NICU release day–and visit your NICU to celebrate the milestone. Hand -drawn posters or cards to the NICU staff would be a sweet thanks for their care. Pinterest has many ideas for cute, themed thank you gifts for hospital staff.
2. COMFORT A FAMILY.
Ronald McDonald House offers a comfortable home-away-from-home stay when a family has a child in the hospital. If you have a local House, call and see what urgent needs they may have. Ask if you can bring baked goods, a catered or home-cooked meal to the House with a note of encouragement from your family. Coloring or activity books and other recreation items would be great for siblings staying in the house.
3. GATHER A TEAM.
Find a nearby March for Babies walk benefiting March of Dimes. It’s free to walk-–-though donations are encouraged–and a great way to get together with friends and family to celebrate a healthy preemie or in memory of one lost too soon.
4. ASK A BRAND.
Do you, a friend or family member own or work for a business that has a product or service that preemie parents might appreciate? Would it make sense for your company to donate towards such an item? A coupon for a reduced price meal, cup of coffee or movie ticket might make a preemie parent’s day. Branded items like tumblers, travel mugs, tote bags and fleece blankets would also make nice gifts. Talk to a contact at the NICU before delivering.
5. HOST A DRIVE.
Again, coordinate with a lead NICU staff member for items that would make the biggest impact for families and staff. Then, rally your network and host a drive. Some ideas include books or magazines for family meetings rooms, art supplies for crafts and door signs, preemie clothes, crocheted preemie hats, or coffee and snacks for a break room.
How did you give back?
Did you give back to your NICU staff or hospital after your NICU stay?
Are you currently in NICU looking for ways to thank staff or connect with other moms?
Let us know in the comments.