Hand to Hold's Official Blog: Written by Parents for Parents

Leaving Without Your Preemie

Almost every preemie parent has to experience going home without their baby.  Some parents have to leave their baby in the care of the NICU for days, some for weeks, and some for months.  No matter how long your baby is in the NICU, you have to face the sorrow, the fear, the anxiety, and the “why me?” of leaving the hospital empty-handed.

There is really no easy way to say goodbye to your baby and there is no easy way to get yourself to turn around and walk out the door.  It’s very hard.  You’ll never feel like you’re ready.  The only way I ever got through it was to force myself to turn around and put one foot in front of the other while trying to smother the pain in my heart.  It never got easier, not even after 94 days in the NICU.

The only thing I can really think of that might help someone face the daily goodbyes is to have them focus on hope, gratitude, and trust.  Hope that their baby will continue to grow and get stronger every single day and that the day will come when they CAN bring their baby home; gratitude that their baby is alive and that their understanding of life and love and families is being strengthened; trust that the doctors and nurses caring for their preemie are kind, concerned, and educated and will take good care of their little one.

I’m not going to lie, I cried almost every night for 94 days when I was separated from my baby.  When the time finally came to bring my baby home, however, my joy was indescribable and the love and appreciation I had for my little fighter was stronger than many parents ever experience.  When friends were complaining about their baby keeping them up at night, I was rejoicing that my baby could keep me up at night.  When friends complained about their baby’s messes and blowouts, I was rejoicing that I finally got to have those experiences!  When friends complained about their baby’s loud crying, I was rejoicing that my baby’s lungs were strong enough for me to actually hear her cry.

Three years later, I am still rejoicing in my preemie’s health and vitality.  There is little that is so difficult as leaving your baby in the hospital when you are sent home, and there is little that brings as much joy as bringing your baby home after fighting and struggling for months to keep them alive and healthy.

Best wishes to all of you who are currently fighting your way through the gray clouds of uncertainty.  I pray that your silver lining will appear soon and your joy can be full in bringing your sweet babe home with you!

Afton Mower About Afton Mower

After Mower (UT) lost her firstborn son at 21 weeks.  Her daughter was born a year and a half later at 27 weeks.  The NICU was overwhelming and isolating and it was through those two experiences she was led to found this social hub for parents to find the support they needed. Afton also gave birth to another daughter, born two days overdue after four months of strict bedrest. She believes it is a tender experience to hold a special baby in your arms when his spirit returns to his heavenly home, a miracle to watch tiny babies survive the risks of prematurity and a blessing to hold a healthy full-term baby after months of difficulty and sacrifices.


  1. I coped knowing she was in good hands with loving nurses. They treated her as if she were their own. Every night I kisses her on forehead, held her hand, let her know how much I loved her and I had to always tell her how proud I was of her.

  2. i say we are soo proud of our big girl…..we love you sooo much and will see you in the morning… I also say be nice to the nurses(she gets feisty) .

  3. My only way of coping was doing as much for Alex as I possibly good, as if we were at home. I made sure I was there for his cares (when I was able to be), I set up a schedule with the nurses for when he got his bottle feedings so that I could be there, I changed his clothes while I was there (if I was allowed and if his body temperature allowed it… See More), I read him stories each night before I left him, and I always gave him a little kiss and told him how much I loved him. Of course, this doesn’t replace having him at home in my arms, but it helped a bit.

  4. The first njght was the most difficult…. get to know all the staff in the NICU, dr’s., nurses, x-ray techs, chaplains, even housekeeping… It helped because I always knew someone was keeping an eye or ear out for him…

  5. me and my husband called up to the NICU probably about once every hour all threw the night except for when they shut down for shift change it was awful saying goodbye again every day it usually took us a good hour to actually get outta there just from walkin back and gettin one last smooch bye!

  6. I would say “Bye, Sugar, Mommy loves you” and walk sleepily out the door. Mind you, this was usually at shift change (so I had to leave) and I had already logged in over 6 hours that day in addition to working a full day at work.

  7. The best thing I did was find a primary nurse that I knew loved my baby and would advocate for her when I wasn’t there. Every night shift she would work (which was 4 day a week) I knew she would have my baby. I can’t say it enough…Find Primary Nurses that YOU want to have watching over your baby. It made it a lot easier to sleep at night. 🙂

  8. we prayed with our daughter ever night and stayed as long as we could. Then we would call up and check on her and be right back up there when we got off work and after shift change. The hardest part was the day they sent me home after having her. Other moms were leaving with their babies and we had to leave our angel there. God gave us the strength to get through it

  9. I trusted God. My babies’ lives have always been & always will be in His hands. That is the greatest comfort I know as a mommy.

  10. Samantha says:

    I called every hour to check in when I was not there for 4 months !!!

  11. My husband and I did like a “breakfast lunch and dinner” thing we went in the morning and said our good mornings and did a morning feeding and visited and then when we left we said it was our sons nap time then we would come back for “lunch” and do the whole visiting and feeding thing again and then another nap. At “dinner” when we went we also “… See Moretucked him in” for the night. We just made it like a routine as if he were home and we thought of it as having a nanny for or beautiful boy while we were home sleeping and he was in the NICU. :o)

  12. Calling to check up on them was the first thing I did in the morning and the last thing I did at night.

  13. I phone before bed and in the morning to speak to the same night nurse. I then phone at 10am to speak to the day nurse. ♥

  14. I was very fortunate…I was able to stay with our little girl all but 2 days of her 126 day stay in the NICU. The other 2 days i went home to paint her room and her Daddy stayed with her for those days. They had a pull out couch and a recliner right in the room with our little girl. Showers and laundry were just down the hall. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way!

  15. Afton Mower says:

    Wow, Jill, that’s amazing! Did they have that setup for every single baby?

  16. Yes every room was set up as a suite. If the unit was full they did have to have 2 babies per room. But not all parents stay or are able to stay due to jobs or other children. It was a wonderful hospital!!

  17. looking back on our long stay i dont know how i coped, you just do. i had to have the last kiss and say to her see you in the morning, i would ring when i felt i needed an update and she had the best nurses, doctors etc, they all made us feel at ease to leave each day. All i can say is take it one day at a time.

  18. Crystal says:

    Nothing but the GOOD LORD HELPED US COPE!!!! He gave us the strength!!

  19. Kristin says:

    I called every morning for an update. I always felt that he was in good hands and everything was fine. I left it in God’s hands every night. Also, the NICU nurses would call if anything was changing or wrong, no matter how little.

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