No one starts their pregnancy planning on being a NICU family. But it happens. It could happen to you, me, or your friends. And if you happen to be a friend who is on the outside looking in, you may want to get a special gift on top of the typical baby shower item for a special NICU family. This month is prematurity awareness month and I want to share these gift ideas that can be inspiring, encouraging, and very helpful to a NICU parent.
We stayed in the Ronald McDonald House and the meals provided were such a blessing. But even then, it was nice for friends to bring us a meal. We enjoyed feeling a little more normal by having company and home cooked meals. I believe that meals are also a blessing to NICU families who are closer to the hospital and stay at home. Anything that helps can be an uplifting relief. And meals are perfect!
Monetary donations/gift cards
Being in the NICU is expensive. Surgeries, medicines, lab tests, neonatologists, anesthesiologists, nurses, NPs, all of it adds up. Fast. We were so so so blessed that we were given monetary gifts. My hometown church and also the church in Canyon took a collection for us. The bank in Abernathy started a bank account and the good folks of Abernathy donated to us there. Ryan’s social club brothers did a car wash and gave us all the profits. As a young, newlywed couple this helped lighten a huge financial burden. Also, when a parent is spending hours at the hospital, dollar bills come in handy for the vending machines.
Planned or scheduled company. Planned being the keyword. When Brock was in the NICU, we had set visitation hours that we were allowed to see him. For example, we might could only go visit him every 3 hours. If I had unexpected company show up, then it put me in a tough spot to either be hostess, or be momma. And being momma is more important but then I was left feeling guilty for neglecting our company. But scheduled company was so great. It was nice to talk to people. Nice to hear about life outside of the hospital walls. Friend dates are great! I had a friend come and take me out for ice-cream. Company can help make the NICU feel a little less lonely.
Journals and books
I was given a journal at the beginning of Brocks stay by a friends very wise mother. She told me to keep it and write anything. Feelings, weather, people who came to visit, Brocks progress, Brocks set-backs, anything. When she first gave it to me I was like “yeah right. I don’t want to remember any of this.” But that journal became an outlet. I still love to reflect back on it and see the answered prayers. Some prayers were answered with a yes, some with no, and some wait. My heart seems to have healed, but that journal along with pictures and videos are a reminder of the gift we have in Brock. Books are also a great way to pass time. There are a lot of parenting/humorous/inspirational books out there to pick from! Coloring books are also another great option.
About 6 or 7 weeks in, the nurses at the hospital told Ryan and I that we absolutely HAD to go on a date. They told me that the RMH had makeover coupons that a salon had donated and we had a gift card to go eat. It was so refreshing to go on a date. To get spend time with Ryan away from the buzzing and beeping of the hospital. We needed it. Date night gift cards, hair cut/makeover gift cards, simple ice cream coupons, etc are a great gift to parents.
Cleaning, babysitting older kids, taking care of pets, laundry, meals (again) are some ideas. Before we brought Brock home, both my mom and Ryan’s mom went to our apartment and cleaned. We had been staying in the Ronald McDonald House and had only been home a handful of times and none of those were spent cleaning. It was so nice to come home to a clean home.
Personalized/homemade/handmade special keepsakes
A few of the most precious and special gifts I received were homemade gifts from other children. A group of kids came by the Ronald McDonald house and delivered potted plants that they decorated. One of the Elementary classes wrote us a card and all signed it. Our nieces made a welcome home sign. An ex NICU mom made little blankets for all the babies and attached a note about her NICU baby. These gifts were all so special to me. We also received personalized baby shoes with Brocks name and weight on them. And anything handprint/footprint related is a perfect keepsake gift.
Shutterfly gift card/ family pictures
Pictures. They truly hold memories don’t they? Newborn photo shoot (or just first family pictures- some NICU babies are no longer newborns when they get out) are great gifts. Also a gift card to a photo printing company is great for all of those snapshots that may be taken in the NICU.
Instead of a card, consider getting a book instead. And be sure to sign it. Write a note in it. Sometimes I wasn’t allowed to touch Brock, so I would just sit with him. And if I ran out of things to talk to him about, then reading was a great alternative.
Thoughts and prayers
Lastly, the most important thing you can give to a NICU family is your thoughts and prayers. Text/call/message on big days when you know tests are being run and let them know you’re praying.
Often, life outside the hospital flies by so it may be easy to forget our make time to check in on baby, but when you are stuck at the hospital, time seems to drag and those messages from friends who remember that you’re still there can be very encouraging.
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