My twins were born at 28 weeks gestation and spent 74 days in the NICU. I was terrified. Because of the risks of infection, we did not tell many people we were in the hospital. We had wanted nothing more than to have children and were scared out of our mind. Luckily, because our babies did arrive so early, we had an amazing staff to care for us. I still keep in touch with many of the staff three years later.
I remember taking each of our twins home like it was yesterday. I saw all of the “term” moms going home with carts of flowers and balloons. I heard them say there were people waiting for them at home. To be honest, I was jealous. We had no fanfare, no celebration. I wanted a celebration. I felt like I had run a marathon and this was the finish line. I just wanted SOMEBODY to cheer. Nothing. Fortunately, my mom was there and my Grannie came when the second baby was released – she couldn’t wait to meet them.
Recently, I had a close friend deliver at 26 weeks gestation. I was a scary time for the health of my friend and her baby. They spent 115 days in the same NICU we did. I tried to help. I visited several times during their time in the NICU but there’s no way to really comfort a preemie mom except to cheer her on at the finish line. Her daughter, Shelby, contracted pneumonia which delayed her NICU stay.
While we didn’t want to expose Shelby to germs, we wanted my friend to know we cared for her and were cheering her on – even if it meant staying back and holding signs and balloons for the family to see. We knew it would mean the world to my friend and her family.
We drove three hours to follow through with our plan of holding signs and cheering – it meant this much to me. Due to a delayed discharge, our plans changed slightly and instead, we brought the family and their older daughter lunch to eat in the atrium of the hospital. It was a great distraction for the family!
If you know a preemie mom coming home, they are probably terrified. No matter how long they have been in the NICU, they feel like they have run a marathon. A safe celebration at the end of their NICU stay is fabulous! (Contact your hospital and know the visitation rules) Know that your presence alone shows you care and most NICU moms need that – I know I did.