Parents love celebrating their baby’s milestones. But in the NICU, milestones have a very different meaning. Instead of bonding with their baby through snuggles and first feedings in the postpartum wing of the hospital, parents of NICU babies are scrubbing up at a sink before visiting their baby’s bedside, where they may or may not get to hold or even touch their baby. NICU parents quickly learn to celebrate a completely different set of milestones: first diaper change, first kangaroo care, first feeding, first bath. When your baby is born early or with special healthcare concerns, these milestones take on a much more significant meaning.
For the parents in the hospitals Hand to Hold serves, we acknowledge these milestones with our NICU Milestone Beads, a collection of beads and charms parents accumulate during their stay, beginning with a stork bead to welcome their baby to the world. Depending on the length of their stay, parents receive beads to mark the weeks, numbered beads for pounds gained, beautiful birthstone beads, and charms to mark those important NICU milestones: first hold, first feeding, kangaroo care, room air, and more.
For these parents, the necklaces that hold their beads are more than just a piece of jewelry. They are a symbol of their baby’s journey. Many NICU moms admit to feeling like the beads are their “NICU warrior beads.” They can’t take their baby home with them, but they can wear their story around their neck. Here are just a few of the ways parents have shared how much their NICU Milestone Bead necklaces mean to them. Make sure to scroll down and view the slideshow of photos featuring parents with their necklaces!
I looked forward to Thursdays to see my girls, to get my weekly bead. That necklace became my talisman. It reminded me how far we had come and allowed me to take a piece of the hospital with me when I couldn’t be there. – Kheira A
My milestone beads are my most prized possessions. It’s a reflection of all the positive experiences we faced in the NICU as opposed to the surgeries he faced and still has to deal with. My favorite bead is when I first got to hold him. He was nine days old, and the moment he was placed on my chest there was an automatic stream of happy tears! – Cece C.
The “little” milestones to some people were so big to us, and this was such a wonderful way to recognize and celebrate every milestone we had been through. I will always cherish her necklace, and she will one day, too. – Kaleigh K.
I have my son’s necklace hanging from my rearview mirror. Every time I look at it, I am reminded that if my little 23-weeker can make it through what he has gone through being so small, that I can handle life every day. – Krissy B.
My milestone beads mean trials my son overcame and how strong he is. It brings me an overwhelming sense of joy. – Kristy L.
Being a NICU mom is tough. But these beads help you focus on all the milestones your little one is hitting. Focusing on how far they’ve come and cherishing the smallest details is so consoling. Having the keepsake of those memories is so valuable. I remember starting out with a few beads and seeing all the other moms with so many, then I became one of the moms with all the beads. It’s nice to see someone who can say, “I’ve been there; keep your head up, Mama!” – Danniela Mendez
My favorite bead is the going home bead, because I felt like it was going to take forever for my twins to come home after having them at 25 weeks. They are now eight months old, and we are so happy to have them home. – Sabrina A.
My necklace and beads are truly my most prized possessions. My first beads were kangaroo and bottle. I didn’t get to be there to hold my son or feed him, since he was transported from Columbus, TX to Austin. Two days after by c-section I was able to hold and feed my son for the first time, and it was the best feeling in the world. When I received those first two charms I broke down and cried with happiness. – Stacy H.