Holidays are fun, energetic, loving, and a time for everyone to be together. The baby comes and you realize it wasn’t in your plan for them to come that early. Your mind then goes in a million different directions on what happens next. The “holiday struggle” is what we liked to call it.
Our babies came early at 26 weeks and were born at the end of May. Holidays weren’t close and I honestly didn’t even think about the holidays until my niece and nephew started picking out what they were going to be for Halloween. When Halloween came we had one baby at home and one still fighting for her life in the NICU. We had no idea how to handle this situation and what we should do.
- Should we just skip the holidays and not celebrate them?
- Should we let one have all the fun, get dressed up in a costume or a pretty dress while the one in the hospital got nothing?
- Should we let them both get dressed up and enjoy the holidays like nothing is wrong?
All of these answers could be the one you choose. All I can tell you is that it is hard. It is not easy when you have a child in the NICU, let alone having one child in the NICU and one at home. Halloween is a risky time to get out, as RSV/flu season is in full force. At this time we were unable to even bring our baby to the hospital to see her sister. We don’t have first Halloween pictures of them together, we don’t have pictures of them trick-or-treating together, we didn’t even get any candy.
Ultimately we chose to treat the situation like they were both at home. We wanted them to both get to experience the holidays, even if they were 100% different. They each got their first costumes, they each got pictures, they each got pretty little Christmas dresses, they both got presents, but most of all they both got to celebrate the holidays with their family. Was it how we pictured it would happen for their first holidays? Heck no! We were just thankful that we had both our girls alive and still going strong. We cherished every minute of those holidays because we knew we had to make the most of our situation, there was nothing we could to do change it.
Getting through the holidays can be rough. You are already trying to divide time between families and making sure you have the food you need, the presents you bought, holiday outfits, and more. There are so many things that go through your mind during the holidays, having a baby in the NICU just adds to the stress. We didn’t bring any food to family gatherings that year, we bought very minimal presents and took them to the right houses beforehand. We knew we wanted to spend the holidays with our girls even if that meant we had to spend time apart from each of them as well. We had to act like things were normal. We needed to show them how even in the toughest times of their life we were still present, aware, and making the most of the situation. To this day we still tell them stories about when they were in the hospital. When they see pictures of Kendall in her costume sitting in her hospital bed and ask why, we are honest with them and explain and they get it. They just smile and are glad that they still got costume or pretty dresses.
Kendall has spent 2 of 6 Christmases in the hospital. I believe we need to make them as comfortable as we can. We need to make the most of the situation and make them feel like they are special and that this Christmas is no different from any other. Stay positive and don’t let them sense that anything is wrong , even when it feels everything could be wrong. Most of all show them LOVE, show them that you don’t care where you are for the holidays that you will spend it together and make the most of it.