- You're home (Hooray!)
- Your baby is stable and doing well (Yahoo!)
- You're starting to feel like maybe, finally, you can handle doing a little more than just surviving (Yippee!)
"How do I give back? How do I repay the NICU that saved my baby? What can I do to help now that I'm home?"
Fantastic questions. And common ones given the number of email requests I've received to cover the topic! I'm delighted to tackle the subject and, to be honest, even more delighted to see just how many people want to give back because of the deep gratitude they feel.
I'll be addressing "Giving Back" in three parts because, well, when I started outlining it, it was just too vast and lengthy for one post. You guy are parents- you don't have time to read page upon page of my ideas. For simplicity's sake, I've split it into Time, Talent, and Treasure. For this first part, I'll be addressing ways to give back with your Time.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Ways to Give Back With Your Time
- Offer to speak on behalf of the hospital- Hospitals need to advertise. They are businesses, after all. And one of the best ways they can show their strengths is through success stories like yours. Offer to speak at fundraiser dinners. Offer to do radio or TV spots. Be willing to speak for local groups and charities who might be collecting for the hospital as well. Admittedly, I'm a very comfortable public speaker. I just don't possess that "nervous gene". My husband is not like me at all in this respect. So, when it came time to tape the radio spot or speak before a Kiwanis meeting, I'm the one who did the talking. Capitalize on your strengths. You can see a little of what we taped for Riley Hospital over on the right side-bar.
- Offer to be "buddied up" with a new NICU parent- Let the NICU staff know that you'd be willing to be a resource for a new parent whose baby is in a similar position to where yours was. It can be invaluable to feel like there's someone who really, truly "gets" it. You can be that person. You will be able to fill a role that friends and family, much as they try, just can't.
- Volunteer to sit with older siblings- If your NICU baby was your first or only, this may never have crossed your mind. If you had older children, chances are you would have given your right arm for this kind of help. Parents with one child in the NICU and another at home feel torn. They simply can't be both places at once. Volunteer to spend an hour or so in the waiting room or lounge reading to or coloring with the older siblings of NICU babies. This frees the parent up to visit his or her child and keeps the older child close by too.
- Educate those around you- One of the most important things you can do is simply spread the word about prematurity. Let people know why it happens, what it's like, how we all can help. I found that most people were staggered to even learn that a baby born at less than 24 weeks could survive, much less lead a quality life.
- Participate in events benefiting the March of Dimes- The March of Dimes contributes so much to researching ways to improve the prematurity statistics in this country. They are instrumental in education and innovative research. Their annual March for Babies is a wonderful way to raise awareness and raise funds for a fabulous cause.
- Write a thank you note- Doesn't that sound too easy? I remember seeing some of the most beautiful notes posted up by the nurses' station in our NICU from grateful parents just like you. I would sometimes see the nurses re-reading them with soft smiles on their faces. You know how good you feel when someone acknowledges that you did a great job? Share that feeling with the nurses and doctors who saved your baby.
- Attend functions/reunions- Show your support for the facility that treated your child by attending any events they may put on. This gives you a chance to re-connect with medical staff and families you met during your NICU stay and also to meet new people who've faced similar journies. Such was the case for us when I finally got to meet fellow blogger and micropreemie mom, Ryann, at the NICU Reunion a few weeks back!
- Visit the people who treated your child- One of the greatest ways you can show your thanks is by going back to visit. Let the nurses and doctors who treated your child see how big he or she has gotten. Show off new talents and share success stories. Let these amazing angels of the medical community know that their efforts are not in vain! One of the most precious moments for me was when one of our dearest NICU nurses called a couple weeks ago to see how we all were doing. C. was able to say "hi" to her on the phone. I could hear the thick emotion in our nurse's voice and I had to struggle not to burst into tears myself. What an amazing change from the not-yet-two-pounder she used to monitor and care for...