I was recently contacted by Bliss, the UK charity for premature and sick babies, regarding their new initiative for preemie parents. They asked parents of babies in NICU how friends and relatives could help them during their difficult situation; and based on their responses Bliss created a selection of cards to celebrate such milestones as coming off oxygen and having a first cuddle. Given that this subject is close to my heart, I was more than happy to help share the information NICU parents want you to know so that you’re not left wondering how can I support my friend with her preemie baby?
When Pixie arrived it was amid a whirlwind of emotions – mostly fierce anxiety and fiercer love.
It took me a long while to write about what happened during Pixie’s birth because despite many women experiencing far worse, it was a traumatic time. Suffice to say things did not pan out as I’d expected or hoped, and there were very frightening moments during which I feared for my baby’s safety.
Yet I was one of the lucky ones.
Pixie was never poorly enough to be in an incubator, nor was she on oxygen. Born 18 days early, she wasn’t even technically premature – though she presented as prem. As we were sent home with everything looking good, we never even stayed in NICU. However we were readmitted to a different ward just a few hours after leaving hospital, at which point Pixie was tube-fed for several days. During that time instead of nursing my baby daughter, I was expressing day and night in the hope I’d eventually be able to continue breastfeeding.
It was stressful and scary and a time littered with ‘what if’s and ‘how’s and ‘why’s.
Nothing can prepare you for it, and nothing can make it better – except the vital news that your baby is safe. But there are many ways that it can be made worse – particularly when somebody inadvertently says the wrong thing. And so to combat this, Bliss created a lovely gift pack of cards for friends and relatives of preemie parents, to help them to celebrate the positive moments.
Because that’s all we really want besides assurance that baby is going to be okay: to feel normal and to do the ordinary, beautiful new-parent bit of celebrating our new infant.
That may be one of the saddest parts of caring for a poorly baby: not only are you torn up inside through fear (after one of the most physically demanding challenges of your life) – you’re also robbed of the precious memories you should be making with your newborn in the first days following their birth. Having a preemie baby turns your world upside down, and anything friends or relatives can do to ease that is a blessing.