Without a doubt, being a mom has been the toughest thing I’ve ever done. From the self-doubt of the toddler years to the rough patches of adolescence to the complete bewilderment of letting them go off on their own… it’s one roller coaster of emotion that no one can truly imagine when they first find out that they’re pregnant. It’s hard from the start, but imagine that your first experience as a parent is as a preemie mom, watching your child be hooked up to machines, lying in a plastic bed and unable to hold your baby as they fight to gain every ounce that they can. And that’s probably on a good day.
This doesn’t even begin to describe the scene that faces most mothers of preemies. The utter feeling of helplessness that washes over them as they can only pray that they’re baby is ok is enough to crush parents under normal circumstances. Factor in the reality that she just got done having a baby and has all the physical aftermath to go with it.
My heart breaks just thinking about it.
If you’ve never been in that situation, it’s hard to understand let alone empathize. But many people know women who are going through it and need support. Some will ask how they can help but there’s a good chance that the mother herself couldn’t tell you what she needs because her entire focus is on her baby.
If you know a mother of a preemie who is having a hard time and you want to help, here are a few things you can do to offer your help.
Be Ready to Support Her Along With The Baby.
It is really easy to focus in on the baby at times like this, but remember that mom will need to hear that she’s doing ok and that she’s supported to. Reminding her that just being there makes her a good mom can go a long way.
Prepare and Drop Off Meals
In times of stress, nutrition is one of the first things to go out the window. Without good food in her system, the mother can crash faster and harder and she probably has a long road ahead. Help coordinate a series of home cooked, healthy meals and give her one less thing to think about.
Help Take Care of Things At Home
Does your friend have a pet that needs to be walked? Laundry piling up that needs to be sorted? What about just a quick clean up of the kitchen or bathroom? With all her attention being at the hospital, it’s easy for life at home to get more than a little hectic. Find out what you can do to help out.
Be The Information Contact Person – Stressful situations like this can wear you out but add in all the people you need to contact and the updates that loved ones no doubt want and it’s downright exhausting. Offer to be the person who makes information available so that they only need to say things once and then you can be the buffer between them and everyone else.
Gather Things That Help Them Pass the Time
Spending hours in a hospital can get very lonely and monotonous. Consider collecting things like magazines, puzzle books, portable crafts that she’d enjoy, playing cards, jigsaw puzzles or other ways to pass the time.
Think Before You Speak
It’s hard to know what to say to your friend when they’re hurting like this, but remember that it’s really easy to say something that can hurt the mom of a preemie unintentionally. While you can’t predict everything that can possibly offend someone, take some time to think about how you’ll handle a situation before you’re in it.
Talking about how “tiny” the baby is, how “creepy” the NICU is, or asking when you’ll get to hold the baby are probably not good ideas. Carefully consider what you’re going to say and if you can, talk to other preemie parents to get a good list of pet peeves that you can avoid.
Above all else, just be there. This is a tough time to say the least and the biggest thing that your friend is going to need is support. Let her know that you’re available for her to vent, cry, laugh, or just sit in silence, because that’s what friends do.
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