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There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays

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Any experience in the NICU is stressful, terrifying, and overwhelming in so many ways. As a parent, you are thrown into an uncharted territory full of medical jargon, statistics, plenty of bad days that overshadow the good, and countless tubes and wires. After a while, the everyday becomes somewhat routine as you get to know the ins and outs of the NICU. Then, the holidays arrive. The “normal” hustle and bustle swirls around you, but you seem to disappear within this new life. While the average day can be lonely, the holidays reach a new level of isolation that can be too much to bear.

If you know a family that is in the NICU during the holidays, here are a few ideas to let them know that you are thinking of them:

1. Ask if you can video chat with them while they’re visiting the NICU.
As a NICU parent, there is nothing more appreciated than getting glimpses of normalcy. In cases where visitors are extremely limited, a video chat is a great way to gift a feeling of togetherness even if its through a screen.

2. Gift a favorite children’s book.
Reading aloud is a great way to spend time in the NICU, and it’s great for both baby and parents! If you have a favorite, even if it’s not a new purchase, give it as a gift. For an extra touch of thoughtfulness, write an inscription inside the front cover and mention why you love the book so much that you wanted to pass it along.

3. Make a coffee date.
Even in a NICU where visitors are limited, the cafeteria can be an option for a coffee date. It’s understandable for a parent not to leave the baby’s side but if you find out a time within the schedule where the unit is closed (like during rounds), that could be a great time to schedule a quick meetup. If that’s difficult, send a quick text that you would love to stop by at a certain time with coffee (or food) if they can sneak away for five minutes.

4. Bring some festive flair.
There may be certain decorations that may not be allowed within the NICU, such as flowers or plants, but simple items should be welcome – think: tiny stockings for Christmas and paper hearts for Valentine’s Day. If you’re crafty, try making something to decorate an isolette or make a room feel more like home. A baby may not be allowed to wear clothing just yet, but if they can, a personally decorated onesie or themed outfit could brighten a family’s day.

5. Do what you can.
When it comes down to it, any type of effort is appreciated. The holidays can be a crazy time and everyone is understandably busy, but you’d be surprised at the smile that even a simple text message can create. Also, if a family has other children at home, ask how you can help make their holiday special, too, especially if it’s hard for you to visit the hospital.

If you know a family that has recently been discharged from the NICU or has a preemie, let them know that you are thinking of them, as well. Holidays spent at home, especially during RSV/flu season, can be difficult with medically fragile children. Even if it’s not said right away, your kindness is appreciated more than you’ll ever know.


Underestimated Strength is a collection of posts all about our journey through life as we navigate preemie parenting after the NICU. You can read my posts here every Tuesday! Also, feel free to follow me on Instagram, where I speak freely about our story and advocacy.

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