When we first realized our girls were going to be in the NICU for a long period of time, it really took a toll on us as a family. All four grandparents and Matt and I worked full-time jobs. After work, Matt and I would go visit the girls for a few hours and then head home for the night; then we’d rinse and repeat.
It got a little … okay, a lot more difficult once we had Brooke home. Once Brooke came home, Kendall was transferred to Nationwide Children’s in Columbus. To put that into perspective, we had about an hour and a half drive there and another hour and a half back for ONE visit. Now, at this time I was no longer working but a full-time stay-at-home mommy; however, I didn’t have a license, so I couldn’t just go while everyone was at work. To make matters worse, Matt was working a full-time job but had switched jobs and now worked 3rd shift, and Brooke was not allowed in the hospital at all because it was a NICU and during flu/RSV season.
I felt like no matter what we did, we couldn’t get to Kendall. We made the most of the situation. It wasn’t realistic for us to get up there during the day. Someone would have to watch Brooke and no one got off until 5, which got us there about 6:30 at the earliest – probably closer to 7 – and then Matt had to be at work at 9 so we would get 20-30 minutes, if that, with her. I know it seems like no matter what it took you would go and do it, but we couldn’t because it would just make us exhausted and we would have no energy while we were with her.
Here is the best part of our story. We got up to see Kendall every Sunday; we had family day there and would spend the whole day with her. The best part was that my dad would get off work every day and stop by the hospital and spend an hour or two with her. That was something that really touched my heart. My dad didn’t have to do that, he wasn’t forced to … but he did it. To this day, I feel like he and Kendall share an irresistible bond. She clings to him when he is around and is the first person she runs to. I couldn’t have asked for a better person so spend that extra quality time that we couldn’t get to spend with her.
I know this is not a realistic scenario for most grandparents, so here are some other ways that can help mommy and daddy a lot more than you think:
- Send notes/cards/flowers/toys – It doesn’t have to be something huge and over the top. Just a little note or something that says, ‘even though we can’t be there we are thinking about you guys and hope things are going well or getting better’.
- Skype/FaceTime – technology is becoming bigger and better. We have had several hospital visits and I can’t begin to tell you how excited the girls get when they are in the hospital for a stay and we FaceTime daddy or grandma and grandpa. They love getting to see the people they can’t see because they are in the hospital.
- Spend time with them when you can – Not all grandparents live close, but if you do, stop by and see the baby. It may not be a pleasant experience, but you have no idea how much it means to that child/parent when you show your love. It is true what they say: the baby/child can feel and sense when and who is there and the love and support they show.
- A phone call – A phone call goes a long way. You don’t have to call and talk for an hour, just call to check on everything and see if they need anything, even if it is something done around the house.
- Make dinner – This is something that helped us out a lot. Friends and family found out about what had happened with the girls and we had people asking if they could bring us dinners or clean the house; just little things that you really don’t think about.
All of these are things you can do to help others around you when they are having a hospital stay or a NICU stay. They may seem like something little and really not worthy of anything, but trust me – they go a long way.