Six years ago, we found ourselves in the NICU during the holidays. Our twin boys were due near Valentine’s Day but came very unexpectedly on Halloween. We had just lost one of our twin boys the weekend before Thanksgiving and the last thing we felt like doing during the holiday season was celebrating.
The holiday season is my favorite time of year but six years ago, I didn’t feel like celebrating. I wanted to skip the holidays all together. I had a child in the NICU, what was there to be happy about?
The weekend before Christmas, my husband and I decided to put up our Christmas tree and stockings. I felt like I was simply going through the motions of the holidays but I thought our attempt of making our house look like Christmas might help our spirits.
On Christmas Eve, we walked into our son’s NICU room to spend the day with him. We were greeted with a smile from Joseph’s nurse. He had “made” us a Christmas card and on his bed was a holiday outfit. A smile immediately came to my face. Joseph had never worn clothes before. Was today going to be the day?!
Joseph had had several good days in a row. He was still on the ventilator but was doing quite well. The nurse looked at us when we walked in his room and said, “I thought we could dress Joseph up and you can take family pictures if you like.”
“Of course!” we said. Our spirits were suddenly lifted.
Suddenly the holiday season was just a tad brighter. I asked the nurse where she found the tiny outfit. She said they had been donated by a previous NICU family. I couldn’t believe that someone we didn’t even know would be so generous to think of families who are in the NICU during the holidays.
Sure, the first Christmas pictures with Joseph weren’t “normal.” He was on a ventilator, he was incredibly tiny, he was in the hospital but thanks to someone’s generosity, we have these photos of Joseph in his first holiday outfit.
This year, it was a rewarding experience to be able to take Joseph to the NICU where he was born and deliver Graham’s Foundation care packages to brighten the day of someone who is in the NICU.
On Christmas Day the year Joseph and Campbell were born, my husband and I went out to dinner and to see a movie after spending the day with Joseph. There was a part of me that felt guilty for going to see a movie but it was something we almost always did on Christmas day and needed to do something “normal.” Holiday gatherings were different that particular year. We had just lost our son, Campbell, Joseph was in the NICU, and we all tried our best to make the holidays seem like they had in the past.
If you are in the NICU this holiday season, please know you are thought of and remembered. Take time for yourself. It’s okay – I promise. If you don’t feel like celebrating, it’s okay, too – I promise.
If you have recently lost your child, we think of you during this time and remember your little one who left this world too soon.
If there was one thing I learned while spending the holidays in the NICU, it is to find joy in the little things. On Christmas Eve that year, it was the joy that someone we didn’t even know had left a tiny outfit that we were able to enjoy by dressing Joseph for the first time. Some days, our joy came in a good report or joy in the fact that Joseph had made it through another day. Some days, our joy came in getting to hold Joseph or in the lowering of the ventilator setting. Some days, our joy came in knowing he was off a medication or knowing that his blood work didn’t show any signs of infection. We came to live in the joys of the day – no matter how big or small.
The Graham’s Foundation team wishes you a joyous holiday season and think of you during this time.