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

Spending Holidays in the NICU

There isn’t anything easy about being in the NICU with your child. The days move slowly and time seems to stand still. When my twins were in the NICU, I often lost track of what day of the week it was because it just didn’t matter to me. What mattered were my two beautiful twin micro preemie daughters.

holidays in the NICU micro preemie twinsMy girls were born at 26 weeks weighing 1 pound 11 ounces and 2 pounds 4 ounces. They spent a total of four months in the NICU. Delivering them early was something for which I certainly wasn’t prepared. I delivered the last week in October, so we spent Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years in the NICU. That year the holiday season was very difficult and different to say the least.

The holidays are supposed to be full of love, laughter, togetherness, memories, and family. However, when part of your family is in the NICU, it certainly can cause heartache.

Life in the NICU is hard. You are going through something very difficult to handle and something most other people will never begin to understand. Adding an additional layer of stress on how to manage the holidays can be extremely overwhelming. It feels like stress on top of stress. You don’t want to disappoint family or friends by missing a family function, but then you also don’t want to leave your baby. It may feel like you’re being pulled in two different directions. Here is a good rule of thumb to go by. You honestly need to do what feels right. If you feel up to going to a holiday event, then you should. If you don’t want to, then don’t and stay by your baby’s side.  Don’t let someone influence you in either direction. This is your journey.

It is true that your family and friends will want to see you, it is the holidays after all. Go with your gut. Don’t be afraid to say no if you don’t want to leave the hospital. On the other hand, if you think stepping away and attending a holiday party outside of the NICU will be beneficial for your mental health, do it. If your family really wants to do something and you’re not prepared to leave the hospital then have them come visit you. They can bring you thanksgiving dinner leftovers or you can exchange presents and drink some cocoa in a family waiting area. This holiday season can still happen, it just may have to be a little different.

This moment in your life is about you and your precious baby. This holiday season really think about what’s best for you and your baby.

There is no plan book or rule book on the right thing to do when your child is in the NICU. You just need to do what feels right to you. Take the NICU one day at a time. Try not to make any long term plans; plan things a day at a time. Focus on your baby and everything else will work out.

I also just wanted to add a side note here. I wanted to take the opportunity to thank all of the many people who continue to work on holidays in a hospital. You are making a sacrifice too and parents like me will never forget that you were there taking wonderful care of my girls and missing a holiday celebration with your family.

Melanie Turner About Melanie Turner

Melanie (MD) is the proud mother of twin micro-preemie girls, Abigail and Elizabeth. In addition to her responsibilities and joys as a mother, she is a kindergarten teacher with a Master's Degree in Early Childhood Education. Abigail and Elizabeth were born at 26 weeks weighing 1lb11oz and 2lbs4oz. They spent four months in the NICU where they battled everything from grade 4 brain bleeds, chronic lung disease, hydrocephalus, and feeding issues. Post discharge, Elizabeth was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and Abigail with a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and both attend weekly therapy sessions. Today, they are happy and active two-year olds who continue to wow everyone they meet. Melanie writes about her experiences on her personal blog and enjoys talking to new preemie moms and giving any advice she can.

Comments

  1. Susan Hundley says:

    You could have been writing about my twin micro-preemie granddaughters and their first Holidays. Born on October 6, 2013 at 26 weeks and spending 96 days in the NICU, they went home together on January 10, 2014. I was fortunate to be able to spend every day of their NICU stay with my daughter and son-in-law (when he was not at work). Halloween was special because our second twin came off the ventilator – her sister did on day 4. Thanksgiving we worked out the plan that I would leave early the night before, prepare everything for the next day for our entire family (I have two other daughters, two son-in-laws and three grandchildren, also) then go to Thanksgiving Mass in the morning with all of them, leave and drive back the hour and half to the NICU and have my daughter and son-in-law go to my house to celebrate with the family – the first time my daughter left the NICU since the twin’s birth. They returned the next morning, knowing I had stayed with the twins and the amazing NICU staff was also there. Funny note about my Thanksgiving “dinner.” The hospital had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner prepared for all NICU families. They announced it several times and every NICU staff member reminded me to go to it. When I was with my granddaughters all Thanksgiving, I lost track of the time and soon it was 9:00pm – the last dinner had been served. So, when I got to the Ronald McDonald House around 10:00pm, I made some microwave popcorn for my dinner (too tired to prepare anything else). Soon, I nice couple smelled the popcorn and came out of their room. They asked me if it was just a snack, but I explained it was my dinner, because of missing the NICU’S dinner. They immediately pulled out a full array of wonderful Thanksgiving leftovers and prepared plates for the three of us. They ate with me and then we talked in the lounge area for another hour. I went to bed thankful for their friendship. Christmas we repeated the same plan, except this time the NICU nurses made sure I ate dinner! For New Years, my daughter, son-in-law and I celebrated together at the NICU with the amazing staff! My daughter only left those two times and came back eager to be with her babies! Every family needs to deicide what is best and even possible for their own situation, when you have a baby or babies in the NICU over Holidays. Last Christmas Eve, I returned to both the NICU and the Ronald McDonald House. I brought presents for the NICU nurses and for the families. I did the same for at the Ronald McDonald House, because the year before we received gifts and I remember how much this meant. Of course, both places were more excited at the pictures of our twins! This year the twins can come along with Mom and Dad – should be very special!

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