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

NICU Christmas Gifts

From the time that I was in the NICU with my preemie I’ve wanted to return the favor of so many who brought special Christmas gifts to the NICU during the holidays.  This year I finally had the privilege of paying it forward.

My greatest wish was to bring something cheerful and Christmasy, something fun that helped families and nurses remember that it was Christmastime.  So, I chose a little cluster of bright Christmas ornaments, strung them together with sparkly silver ribbon, and slipped my Christmas note into the stocking.  I thought they were adorable.

Although I had planned to take some friends with me, circumstances led to my being there all by myself with my box of gifts.  To be honest, I had been nervous and anxious about my visit for a number of days.  The last time I visited the NICU was a very emotional experience.  Having a friend who just barely gave birth to 23w5d twins my mind has been extra sensitive to the preemie issue.  I was nervous to be there, to see the babies, and to see the parents.  I guess I was afraid I would be emotionally overwhelmed and would break down with the weight of memories and empathy.  Oh well, I wasn’t about to let my fears keep me from spreading some Christmas cheer.

Arriving at the NICU was exciting, and when I was told I could bring my gifts to each cribside, in every room, I was delighted.  For the first time I’d be able to wander about the NICU freely and look at the babies.  When my preemie was in the NICU we were told never to look at the other babies for privacy reasons.  I had always peeked when walking by, but averted my eyes most of the time for fear of breaking some rule.  How come now, when I was visiting as a “stranger”, I could walk about freely and look at all the babies?  The thought, despite my delight, made me a little wary of how easy it was for me to get in and get close to all of the babies.  I won’t dwell on that now, though.

I ventured into each room feeling slightly awkward, but also delighted to see my little stockings hanging next to each crib or isolette when I was finished.  The few parents I met with their babies seemed happy to pick out a Christmas trinket for their little one, and the nurses said quiet “thank you”s.  I watched one mother walk painfully to her new baby’s isolette and seemingly try to get a hold of what all of this meant, and I remembered being in her shoes.  I watched a father and grandfather coo over their little princess, and a mother and grandmother learn how to check their baby’s temperature.  I watched a couple cautiously holding their tube-attached baby in their arms – delighted to be so close to their little one, and I remembered holding my preemie for the first time.  I watched another couple talk happily to their little girl and introduce her to the mobile dangling over her crib.  What precious and private moments I was able to witness, and what sweet and delicate memories flooded back to me.

I took my time, wished a Merry Christmas to each sweet baby, and was delighted when one would turn to look at me as I was hanging her stocking on her cribside monitor.  What cuties this preemie babies are!  More than anything I wanted to sit down and cuddle these babies, sing to them, and tell them all of the wonderful things about life and about Christmas.

I had a wonderful experience, and I hope to be able to return every year.  My visit was a vivid reminder of the real purpose of Christmas – to remember the birth of the Savior and to love and bless the world as He would do.  He was the supreme example of selfless service and sacrifice.

May we all have the opportunity to give this Christmas and experience the true joy of the season.

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 LOVE this! I have tears in my eyes reading it. What a great thing you did!! 🙂
    I often think how much I wish I could help out the parents and talk to them and give them hope.
    I am surprised about your easy access as well but wonder and wish I could do the same.

    Merry Christmas!!

    • Thank you. My gifts were very cheap and simple, but before I even decided on them I was thinking I might just write a letter and tie it with Christmas ribbon. Very little money needs to be spent and we all know that it’s the thought and the effort that counts more than anything. I hope that in the future you will have the opportunity to give and to help parents as you would like to do.

  2. That is so wonderful! I am getting ready to do the same thing type of “pay it forward” things. There is a support group of NICU grads from our hospital just starting to form and we are putting together goodie bags for the parents with snacks, water, etc. I love the way you describe the feeling of going back for the first time and interacting with babies. I totally empathize with all of that! I think the fear of breaking down is exactly where the anxiety comes from, especially for me as we only brought our lil guy home 5 months ago 🙂

  3. That was really beautiful writing Afton! The way you described it was so peaceful sounding. To me, it sounded like it would be a very good healing experience for myself. I think as preemie parents we often times don’t deal with the trauma of it all (who has time in the NICU for that) and I know that I for one still grieve and have feelings from that time and have often times thought about what it would be like to go back…and be up close to that again. But this post was beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

    I’m sure the parents loved the little gifts you gave them. I appreciated the multiple things we received while there…and I kept them all. It was so nice to come in and realize that someone else could understand your situation. And that they cared enough to make something for you. You’re great!!

  4. Michelle Yvonne Burns says:

    This is wonderful, I am hoping to give books to all the babies. We got in the habit of reading to our daughter nearly every day. She seemed so attentive and loved looking at the pictures. I sometimes look at here and still cry thinking back to those days. She will be one next month and sometimes the scares on her back from the surgery are what remind me that we really did go through that for four long months.

  5. I did this for several years after my daughter was born – really great thing to do!

  6. We will going to the NICU on Christmas night. 🙂

  7. I want to give the parents a little note of encouragement and inspiration however I am not very good with words. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

  8. Made blankets for them last week!! ♥ my heart goes out to the babies still in the NICU!! Hope everyone has a Merry Christmas!! They are all blessings!

  9. In NZ, all the babies in NICU this Christmas day will get a quilt rolled up in a stocking made by our volunteers =]

  10. My twin granddaughters were recipients of the very generous donations from several “Christmas angels”. I hope to be in a better financial position to pay it forward in the future.

  11. my lily had a blanket that was made and donated that she snuggled with once she was in an open crib..I cant wait til shes a little bit older so we can make things for the NICU!…it felt so good to donate preemie clothes cause I knew how good it felt for Lily to finally get to wear clothes at 35 weeks, as she was born at 27 weeks…good ideas Hayley!

  12. Clothes is a fantastic idea 🙂

  13. they make the sweetest things now! I donated little tiny booties and jammies with ruffles on the butt! 🙂

  14. When I was out shopping a couple weeks ago I found a few preemie sleepers at a second hand store that were 70% off. I knew right then I needed to get them for the NICU. They was in such high heat that they can take such donations. They are very big on dressing the babies as soon as they are no longer in a humidified incubator (Melany was about 29wks when she got to start wearing clothes), we had some of our own for Melany because Ashtyn had used them too but not everyone has or can go get them their own clothes while in the NICU. A also asked one of Melany’s nurses that we are close to what they were in need of and was told receiving blankets. I actually just got home from getting fabric to make 6 receiving blankets. I know it is not a lot but I wanted to do something for the NICU and hope to continue to be able to do things for them sporadically, they took care of my babies, we love the are they provide 🙂

  15. I love your stockings I think I will borrow your great idea. I am forming a new charity and looking for neat ideas to “pay if forward” in addition to the main mission of my new charity. I love the Christmas idea. God bless!

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