On Friday, I wrote a bit about ways to give back to the medical community that cared for your preemie through the use of Your Time. Today, I'd like to continue talking about ways we can give back with a focus on Talent.
The very first thing you need to do here is simply think of what you love to do. What you enjoy doing in your free time. Do you cook? Do you sew? Can you knit? Do you play an instrument? Can you sing? Are you crafty? Are you great at finding a deal? Seriously, just think about what you like to do with your time. The best way to ensure you "stick with it" when it comes to giving back with your talent is to do something that really, truly brings you joy.
Here are a few suggestions for things you can do with Your Talent:
- Whip up a snack/appetizer tray for the nurses' break room- NICU nurses (well, probably all nurses for that matter) work very hard for very long stretches. Having some yummy treats that are quick and easy to grab will be appreciated. Whether you're a talented baker or the queen (or king) of hors d'ouevres, trays make for a pretty presentation and easy delivery.
- Knit or crochet preemie hats- Patterns for these abound. Quick rule of thumb: hats for full-term newborns should fit a grapefruit, hats for 28-36 week preemies should fit an orange, and hats for micro-preemies should fit a lemon. When I crochet micro-preemie hats, I use a pattern designed for a "preemie hat" with a smaller gauge hook. This results in a slightly smaller hat. I was frustrated by how giant even the "preemie hats" were on my daughter, so it's a real mission of mine to keep our NICU stocked with teeny tiny hats!
- Sew positioning "snakes" or padded wraps- These padded or foam tubes covered in soft fabric are invaluable for keeping little preemies properly positioned in their isolettes. I have never attempted to make one of these myself, but I received an email from someone who has! Anyone know where to find a good pattern?
- Sew preemie gowns- When your preemie gets to start wearing clothes, it's a big milestone. We were able to dress our daughter earlier than many others because my mother and her friend made pretty little gowns for C. They were open all down the back and had two ties. Essentially, they were hospital gowns made of pretty fabrics. They allowed easy access for IV's, tubes, central lines, leads, and all the other lovely wires and things still hanging off our baby. We were able to donate a pile of extra gowns our daughter never wore.
- Partner with another family or two and deliver an entire meal to the NICU team- Get together with another family of "NICU graduates" and prepare a hot meal from salad to dessert. Deliver it along with paper plates, utensils, and napkins as a "thank you" to the team that did so much for your child.
- Embellish scrap book pages so that all the parents need to do is add photos and a brief write-up- Parents with babies in the NICU often either forget to document these early days or simply don't have the time or energy to compile a pretty scrapbook page. That doesn't mean they wouldn't love to preserve these memories though! Sometimes nurses put together scrapbook pages which I feel is a tremendous gift. Make their jobs a bit easier by embellishing some pages and matting spots for pictures and anecdotes. Consider making pages for babies of the opposite gender of your own. I know that when I had my son, I felt like I had a plethora of "girly" stickers and papers rolling around. And, well, sometimes it's fun to play with "blue" or "pink" when you're so used to the other!
- Volunteer for holiday choir/music opportunities- Many hospitals seek talent around the holidays to sing or play carols for those confined to their hospital beds over Christmas. I was asked to be a part of this last year and was unfortunately out of the state at the time. (It was a well-known fact that I sang since I often ended up serenading the entire module!) You can bet I'll be making inquiries to see if they want me this year!
- Deliver "Dad Meals" to the Family Lounge- Poor dads. They're often over-looked. Our hospital was amazing in that they would deliver up to three meals a day to nursing mothers. They also provided "discount breakfast vouchers" for fathers. That was very nice. I think it would be a very thoughtful gesture to put together some "brown bag dinners" and deliver them to the Family Lounge so the dads could eat with their wives and not have to shell out a dime.
- Offer to help do on-line research to find needed items- There was a volunteer named Harry who you could almost always find sitting at a desk at the end of the NICU hall. I still see him when I go back to visit. That man is incredible. One of the sweetest things he would offer to do was to help with "computer stuff". If you were trying to set up a web page for your baby, he was your man. If you were desperately seeking the best price on a particular car seat, he was to go-to guy. You can do these things too! Volunteer to research deals and specs for items that NICU parents are seeking. Do some of the up-front work for them so all they need to do is place an order or pick it up.
- Make "going home" baskets- Use baskets you have laying around or pick some up for cheap at the thrift store. Fill them with those items you couldn't live without. Consider including a split of champagne or sparkling cider so they can toast this achievement. See if one of the nurses will provide you with the brand of pacifier they're used to. Perhaps you could add some food items similar to those listed here for quick energy as the new parents get settled back at home. Laminate a card with important phone numbers (O2 provider, direct NICU number, poison control, etc.) and glue a magnet on the back. Tuck that in there too. Try to remember the things that made your life easier! You can make these as large or small as you want. This could be a great project for a church group, a classroom, or a scout troop.
Join me tomorrow when I address the final part of this series- giving back with Treasure.