Having a baby is expensive. Having a baby in the NICU is astronomically more expensive; the costs vary depending on your employer and insurance coverage, but there is no way around the fact you will be spending money you did not budget. Even if you have stellar insurance there are going to be hidden price tags along the way. These smaller costs also happen to be some of the easiest ways for your friends, family, and coworkers to pitch in and help.
Food – Everyone loves to remind new moms to take care of themselves, but my diet suffered drastically while my son was in the hospital. I rarely had the time or energy to cook healthy food, or to cook at all — so I became well acquainted with the drive thru and could probably still tell you how much a scone, hotdog, and diet soda costs in the hospital cafeteria.
Parking – This varies by hospital, but for many of the bigger learning hospitals the price to park is steep, and sometimes you are going in and out several times a day. My coworkers bought me a book of parking passes to help offset the cost. Check your NICU resources as well, because some hospitals will offer free parking to parents after a certain length of stay.
Gas – Depending on the distance of your commute this can be a huge financial hit. Some of the parents I met drove an hour or more and were making the round-trip commute at least once per day. Gas cards are an amazing gift.
Lodging – Everyone has heard of the Ronald McDonald house, but for some families it may not be a viable option, and the cost of keeping a second roof over your head is high. Even the cheapest hotels add up quickly, and short-term rentals can be hard to find.
Childcare – If you have other children at home there are plenty of extra considerations. You may be driving back and forth more often, and you will certainly need some additional hands on deck. If you don’t have a support network you may have to pay for childcare. The same is true for pet care, especially if you are making a temporary move to be closer to your baby.
Retail Therapy – I’ll be honest — I spent a lot of money that I did not have while my son was in the hospital. I found myself struggling to feel like his mother. His basic needs were being met by the nurses and doctors while I felt like a spectator, so I bought things, both for him and for me. Buying clothes for him seemed like the most basic way that I could recapture some of that maternal feeling. And if I needed more button-up shirts for kangaroo care, then damn it I was going to go out and get some. Sometimes I just needed to escape responsibility for an hour and a shopping trip felt like the answer. I had a difficult time finding the energy to care, because everything else loomed so large; $10 here and $5 there seemed inconsequential. Was this the best use of my money? Possibly not. But we do what we have to do to get through the day.
These are just some of the ways money flows out of your pockets when your baby is in the hospital. Of course, we all know that kids don’t always get cheaper once they come home and that the biggest costs can be emotional and physical rather than financial, but those are posts for another time.
How about you? Did you find any other unexpected tolls on your wallet?
If you have had loved ones with children in the hospital did you find any creative ways to help keep them from being nickled and dimed? Let us know in the comments.