All babies are miracles, but every so often, a baby enters this world that defies the odds and proves how miraculous babies truly are. These babies often spend some time in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). The NICU is one of the scariest places to ever find yourself as a parent. I speak from experience. My oldest son entered the world a full 16 weeks ahead of schedule at the cusp of “viability” as they call it. Motherhood began for me in a room surrounded by medical professionals who decided how I could interact with my one pound baby all while beeps and buzzer rang in my head. This isn’t the ideal way to start a life. As a parent, it’s easy to feel lost, overwhelmed and isolated even though you’re constantly surrounded by people.
Recognize the Unique Challenges
As the support system of a NICU family, it can be hard to know what to do or what to say to encourage them. I think the first thing to recognize is that every family’s journey is going to be different. Some will be very open about what’s happening, other’s will be very private. Some will grieve loudly and openly while others will put forward a strong front all the time. As an outsider, you may not know exactly what to do or say and its actually okay to tell them that. Feel free to say, “I don’t know what to say or what to do to help you but I want you to know that I know you’re hurting and I’m here for you.” An honest response like that will always be much better received then a cliché positive remark such as, “God has a plan.” Authenticity is always better.
Make it Feel Like Home
One of the most precious gifts you can give a NICU family is something to make their hospital room feel more like a nursery. Small items with the baby’s name on it or décor items can go a long way to helping them feel at home in such a foreign setting.
Most families who wind up in the NICU don’t know they’re heading there, but, for the few who do, it gives you ample time to think of ways to ease the stress during this difficult situation. I recently had the opportunity to support a friend as she prepared for the NICU journey that lay ahead of her. I knew I wanted to send her something for her daughter’s NICU room but, without a name for the baby yet, some of my previous gift ideas weren’t an option. That’s when I came up with the idea of the NICU Blessing Banner. The truth is, you could make this for any baby – NICU or not – but it’s especially touching for families dealing with exceptional challenges after birth.
I love to sew, so I chose to make my banner out of fabric but you could make it out of scrapbook paper and cardstock too. Since I didn’t know the baby’s name, I picked a cute feminine color scheme for one side of my pennants (in this case, light pink, mint and cream with gold accents) and a plain fabric for the backs. I used ric-rac to make the connecting string for my pennants.
Once I’d assembled my banner, I used a gold fabric marker to write blessings on the back of each pennant. I picked three categories – scripture passages, blessings for the baby and blessings for the family/medical practitioners. When you’re in a NICU situation, you sometimes just don’t feel like being encouraged which is why I chose to put these blessings on the back of the banner. Sometimes, you want to have a pity party and that’s okay. It’s all part of the process. By making the banner pretty on both sides, it can still give comfort with the blessings displayed or hidden.
Each NICU situation and family are different but here are some blessings ideas to get you started:
- Psalm 139:13 – For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
- Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
- 1 Samuel 1:27a – For this child I prayed.
- Prayers for the child’s salvation.
- Prayers for the child’s future friends.
- Prayers that the fruits of the Spirit grow in the child.
- Prayers for wisdom for the doctors and nurses.
- Prayers for peace and comfort for the parents.
- Prayers for love and understanding from the siblings.
- Prayers for comfort and protection for the child.
- Prayers for support from the family’s community of friends and family.
Since it’s hard to know the specifics of a NICU stay, I tried to have a mixture of prayers for the immediate needs of the family and the baby as well as prayers for the baby’s future.
Any effort to help a NICU parent feel more like a normal parent while still acknowledging their unique and challenging situation will be an encouragement to them. Have you ever had to support a friend or family member through a pregnancy or infant loss or a NICU stay? Did you feel lost or unsure on how to support them? Would you like to read more posts about ways to be God’s hands and feet during these tough times? Let me know in the comments below!