In 2010 my daughter was born fifteen and a half weeks early, making her February due date give way to a November birthday. Spending our first Christmas with our first child in the hospital, still unsure of whether or not we would ever bring her home, was incredibly difficult for us. The holidays were so hard that year, our situation looked so dim compared to all of the merry and bright outside of the hospital walls.
Now Scarlette is five years old, and every year on Christmas morning we visit the NICU where we spent our first Christmas with her as a family of three and deliver gift baskets to each of the families in the unit. It has become such a special holiday tradition in our family, and I love packing the gifts with her as an expression of gratitude for our journey.
I am always anchored by the knowledge that our blessing is not just in having a happy, healthy child, but in the way this small gift enables us to take what was such a dark, difficult time for us and turn it into something that brings comfort and hope to others who found themselves unexpectedly in our situation. It means so much to me to have Scarlette participate in something that connects her to the place and people who saved her life and embodies the spirit of of the season.
Each year in November we ask friends and family to consider supporting our gift basket initiative by purchasing an item off of our NICU wish list. I typically set the wish list up on Amazon so that it’s easy for people to donate an item to be shipped directly to us for inclusion in the gift baskets. We also ask local businesses to donate to our care packages and many are happy to!
Here are a few ideas of items to in include in a NICU care package gift basket!
NICU CARE PACKAGE IDEAS
- Reusable Water Bottle – often water is the only drink allowed in the NICU
- Inspirational Read Aloud Books – we usually include a keepsake copy of either Corduroy, The Velveteen Rabbit or The Little Engine That Could for parents to read aloud to their little ones and take home. This year we are including copies of a beautiful book called On The Night You Were Born.
- Mini Blankets – these blankets are meant for the mom to wear next to her chest and then leave with her baby each night, so that her scent on the blanket will be comforting to them.
- Gift Cards – some years we’ve put in $5 gift cards to the Starbucks that’s within walking distance of the hospital, some years we’ve put in gas or grocery gift cards and other times pre-paid parking passes to the hospital.
- Hand Knit Baby Hats – after learning that our NICU only had three baby hats in Christmas colors and our nurse arrived early on Christmas morning to snag one for Scarlette, the following year we asked friends to knit hats of all sizes in holiday themes so that each family could not only have something festive to dress their little one up in amid all the tubes and wires, but that they could take home as a keepsake of their baby’s first Christmas.
- Snacks, Tissues and Hand Sanitizer – three things you can never get enough of in the NICU!
- A Book For The Parents – when you’re a preemie parent you spend a LOT of time sitting in a hospital room with not much to do. An encouraging read is a nice thing to tuck in – this year we’re thrilled to see so many friends that participate in our project by doing gift baskets at their own NICUs including my new book for preemie parents, Anchored. We’re also including it in our gift baskets this year and a few other titles that would be great to include for preemie parents are Preemie by Kasey Matthews and From Hope to Joy by Jennifer Degl.
- A Letter To The Family – we typically write a letter of encouragement to each family, with a then and now picture of our daughter, a little bit about her story, and a note that we are thinking of them and praying for them this holiday season.
Some years we include all the items listed, some years just a few depending on our budget and the amount of donations we receive but there’s a peek at how we do it! We usually invite family over, have Christmas cookies and play music while we put together the gift baskets, which is something I look forward to every year when the holidays roll around.
(If you would like to contribute an item to our family’s holiday NICU gift basket project this year, you can visit here to see our wish list of items still needed. Thank you so much!)