One of the most common questions that leads people to this blog is something along the lines of, “My friend had a preemie – how can I help?” Friends and family want to help, but being a NICU parent is likely something to which many people cannot relate.
There are so many things you can do for your preemie parent friend, from setting up meal calendars to shooting her a quick text message to let her know you are thinking of her. In honor of Random Acts of Kindness Day, we’ve put together a list of 26 acts of kindness for the preemie mom in your life.
Probably the biggest piece of advice I give to those wanting to help is this: Offer less; do more. Moms, we know ourselves. If someone says, “Let me know how I can help!” we never take them up on it, bless our hearts. But when a friend of mine was suffering from a life-threatening infection after the birth of her last baby, I just showed up at her house to take her kids to school, so her mom wouldn’t have to wrangle a 7-year-old, a 5-year-old, and a newborn, and so that dad could get some sleep after a long night by his wife’s bedside. I told them I was coming, but it was more, “I’m taking the kids to school. You get some rest. End of story.” So your friend may not ask, but there are definitely things you can do for her.
26 Random Acts of Kindness for Preemie Moms
• Arrange for a laundry service that picks up and delivers.
• Drop off easy-to-eat breakfast items such as muffins, fruit, or granola bars that she can grab and go on her way out the door to the hospital.
• Start a care calendar or similar service for friends and family to sign up to deliver meals (this is especially helpful once baby is home).
• Meet her at the hospital with a lunch or dinner delivery from her favorite restaurant.
• If she is still recovering from a C-section, drive her to and from the hospital.
• Buy her a nice, cozy wrap sweater for those drafty hospital corridors.
• Give a “Thinking of you” note with a gift card to her favorite coffee shop.
• Pick up gift cards to restaurants near the hospital, or to a meal delivery service like Eat Out In.
• Give the family a gift card for Instacart grocery delivery.
• Coordinate with a close friend or family member to
- care for pets: feeding, walking, playing, cleaning litter box, etc.
- take care of small household tasks or quick errands
• Set up a small fundraiser among friends and family.
• Get the family a parking pass to the hospital. Many hospitals will give parking passes to NICU parents, but not all. If the parents have a parking pass, see about getting one for grandparents.
• Take older children for the day so mom and dad can visit the NICU together.
• Coordinate for a housecleaning, either among friends and family or a local company.
• Deliver a stack of lighthearted books or magazines she can read and kill time with in the NICU, or baby books she can read to her baby.
• Put together a NICU parent survival bag or similar gift basket.
• Gather options for healthy snacks that she can keep in her bag when she goes back and forth to the hospital.
• Put together an activity pack for older children.
• Set up a NICU shower among friends and family.
• Gift her a journal to document the NICU journey, or just to jot down questions and make notes on baby’s progress.
• Put together a small photo album of photos the family has shared on social media sites.
• Print out favorite quotes or scripture for her to keep close at hand. Be careful to avoid anything with a “silver lining” or “everything happens for a reason” mentality. Grief and pain are valid feelings for any NICU parent, and it’s important to instead acknowledge those feelings, instead of suggesting they overcome them right away.
• Offer to visit NICU with her. Some parents are fiercely protective of their NICU time. But offering to accompany your friend to the hospital says, “I’m here. I care about you and your baby.” If you are able to do this, try to get a photo of mom and baby together in the NICU, and frame it for her if you can.
Most of all, your friend needs your love, support, and the knowledge that you are here for her. Check in often. You may not know what to say, and that’s okay. If anything, say “I know this must be hard. I’m here if you want to talk.”