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

The Gift of Receiving

I used to love the holidays.

The sparkle of white lights, the smell of evergreen, the sound of Bing Crosby Christmas carols.

And then I spent a Christmas in our home, while our baby lay in an incubator in a hospital an hour away.

That year, the arrival of Christmas highlighted just how “not normal” our life was at the time.

Every morning, I would drop two-year-old Tucker at daycare or the babysitter would arrive, and I would race into the hospital to spend a few precious hours with my miniature baby.  Every afternoon, my husband would take a cab from his office to spend his lunch hour reading stories to his daughter.  Every evening my husband, son and I would gather at the kitchen table to eat the latest gorgeous meal that had been delivered to our back door by a neighbor or friend from town.

Those elaborate meals sustained us.  But they also embarrassed us.

“How will we ever repay all this kindness,” my husband frequently asked.

And the closer we came to Christmas, the more we received.

Holiday cards, beautifully wrapped ornaments, preemie outfits, icing-piped Christmas cookies.

And the more we received, the more vulnerable, helpless and obliged to return the kindness, we felt.

We even had friends offer to buy us a Christmas tree, hang wreaths from our doors and do our Christmas shopping.

To that I was able to say no.

On my daily drives into the hospital, my mind spun with possible ways to give back to others for all they’d done for us.

And then on Christmas Eve, all that changed.

We were outside the Congregational Church where we’d just attended the annual Nativity pageant.  Tucker had run across the lawn to visit the crèche and all the animals he’d been admiring from afar.

He was trying to climb on the donkey’s back when another family from town strolled over.  I immediately pictured the mom standing at our front door, not once, but twice, in the past month, with a lovely meal she’d prepared for our family.

I quickly readied a speech of gratitude in my head to deliver to the entire family.

But before I could begin, my friend stepped forward, cleared her throat, and began a speech of her own.

“We want to thank you,” I heard her say.

Thank us?

“You have been so kind to allow our family and so many others into your lives.  It has meant so much to us to be able to bring meals and share in helping your family,” she said.

I stood in stunned silence squeezing Tucker’s pudgy hand in mine.

“Your family and Andie’s arrival has brought new meaning to Christmas for us this year.  Thank you for receiving with such openness and grace.”

And in that moment, I learned one of the many, many lessons that would accompany our daughter’s premature birth.

That sometimes the simple act of receiving, is in fact, giving in return.


“Each day comes bearing its own gifts. Untie the ribbons.”

~ Ruth Ann Schabacker




Kasey Mathews About Kasey Mathews

Kasey Mathews (NH) is a mother of two, her son, Tucker born on his due date at an even 8 pounds, and her daughter, Andie born at 25 weeks, weighing 1 pound 11 ounces. Kasey is a writer and author of the memoir, "Preemie: Lessons in Love, Life and Motherhood," in which she openly and honestly writes about her fears and uncertainties as a preemie mom. Kasey considers herself a student in the lessons of everyday life, and regularly observes and finds unexpected meaning in seemingly ordinary events. Her life-lesson stories and much more can be found on her website, www.kaseymathews.com. Follow her on Twitter.


  1. This is beautiful. I, too, had a hard time accepting all the generosity of others when my twins were in the NICU. It made us feel indebted and helpless, but at the same time, loved and supported. We needed the help. We probably would have all ate sandwiches for 4 1/2 months otherwise! I think others want to help, and I wish I had accepted the help more openly and willingly knowing that it is a gift to also receive as you point out. I hope others in the NICU right now take this post to heart and accept the help they are offered with open arms.

  2. As I was reading your article tears were running down my cheeks…We do not yet have a preemie; thankfully our little one is still in the womb for the time being. But I am on bedrest in the hospital an hour away from my husband and three boys. I was admitted on 12/5 with a placental abruption and will most likely remain here in the PICU until I deliver…Words cannot express the gratitude that I have for the kind and generous friends we have at home bringing meals to my family, picking my children up from school, and hosting sleepovers to help accommodate my husband’s fluctuating work schedule. All this before the baby has even been born! In addition to the caring nurses here at the hospital. But like you this gratitude is often overshadowed with feelings of inadequacy and unease over accepting all this kindness. So I just wanted to say thank you for your article. I hope to sleep easier tonight holding onto your words.

  3. Really beautiful writing, Kasey. Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas this year.

  4. Michelle,

    Thank you for sharing with us all. We are so happy to hear that you have been supported by friends and family during what I am sure is a very difficult and overwhelming time. Please know that we (Hand to Hold) are here to support you. Please let us know if there is anything we can do, including finding a parent for you to communicate with who has been right where you are now. All the best always!

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