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

The Kindness of Friends and Strangers

Big Sister Brenna posing in front of a 1 month birthday sign for her baby brother and baby sister.

Having a baby in the NICU is an emotional time for any parent.  As a NICU parent, you are thrown into a completely new world.  You are overwhelmed with medical information, insurance claims, emotional stress, and more, all while trying to somehow maintain your life outside of the hospital – other children, work, bills, etc.  I have been asked by new NICU parents how I got through it.  My 24-week twins spent 133 days in the hospital.  I had a three-year-old at home, and we were in the process of building a new house.  Our old house sold while I was on bedrest at the hospital.  On the day I was discharged from the hospital, our family was moving our stuff from our house to a rent house down the street.  To say our world was turned upside down would be a huge understatement.  So, how did we get through it?  The only way we got through that distressing time in our lives was through the altruism of others.

Our families stepped in to help in so many ways.  They moved our entire house for us.  They cleaned and cooked for us and even mowed our lawn.  They gathered care baskets and groceries, and they did all of these things without us having to ask.  We were in such a state of shock, we didn’t know how to ask for help.  My sister set up a raffle fundraiser to raise money for our medical expenses, and the entire family and several friends sold tickets.  Their support was astounding.

Our friends offered to help too.  My friends watched my older daughter for me during the day so that I could be with the babies in the NICU.  Our friends also set up a meal calendar.  We had meals brought to us a few times a week for four months!  They knew we were going to have an extended stay and kept right on cooking for us.

I was most shocked by the kindness of strangers.  I would get messages like this on my blog, “I have friends and family as far as Pennsylvania and Montana that continue to pray for and ask for updates on Camdyn and Cade.”  We must have been on dozens of church prayer lists with all the people who told us they were praying for our babies.   People who knew us only through our parents or grandparents, who we didn’t know, were making blankets for us and sending gifts.  More people who had never met us were buying raffle tickets in bulk to support us.  While we were experiencing the toughest time in our lives, we were also feeling unending love and support from our family, friends, and complete strangers. Our new neighbor next to our rent house who we had only known for a month had her elementary school class make the banner pictured above and hung it on our front doorstep.  When I came home from the NICU one day, this sign welcomed me home.  Oddly enough, she had former 28-week twins who were two.  She understood what we were going through.  This sign was one of the first celebrations of my twins’ births.  We had received plants in the hospital, but people don’t know what presents to buy for one pound babies.  The same neighbor also bought the twins their very first preemie sleepers.  I cherished those sleepers and looked forward to the day they would be big enough to wear them.  We only lived next to these neighbors for a couple of months before they moved away.  We didn’t stay in touch.  I believe our paths collided for a reason.  She will probably never know the impact she had.  She wasn’t scared to celebrate their birth, and it was exactly what I needed.

If you know someone currently in the NICU, offer support any way that you can.  Rather than asking what they need, just do something for them.  They probably can’t even think about what they need.  Anything you can do to make life a little easier for them will be appreciated.

What’s the most memorable show of support you received while you were in the NICU?

Michelle Hensel About Michelle Hensel

Michelle Hensel (TX) is the mother to three children. Her oldest daughter was born full-term and she unexpectedly delivered her twins at just 23 weeks 5 days, with each weighing 1 lb. 2 oz. and 1 lb. 8 oz. They spent 133 days in the NICU. Although they still face challenges due to their prematurity, they are now active, healthy toddlers. Michelle chronicles her family's journey with former micro-preemie twins and their big sister on her personal blog.

Comments

  1. Hey! I didn’t know you were over here too 🙂 I agree with you that there is no way we would have made it through any of our journey without the love and support of family, friends and even strangers. We needed the people who had “been there” as well as the people who hadn’t. We are so thankful for all the people who were placed in our lives for a time such as this. There were so many people who didn’t know quite what to do, but one thing that stands out in my mind was some friends who sent a care package for me…new jammies, cookies, starbucks gift cards, and a few new shirts. It was just so thoughtful and I could tell they put a lot of thought into it.

  2. Hi Jana! I could have listed several examples of people who went out of their way to help us, but my post would have been entirely too long. Our family made us a family care package with snacks and coloring books and small toys for our older daughter. I think it made her feel special when so much attention was placed on the babies. What a thoughtful care package from your friends. Starbuck’s gift cards is a great idea. Who wouldn’t like that?

  3. My son was born at 29 weeks old. The most memorable thing I remember was being in the hospital every day for 8-10 hours a day. The nurses were so kind. They treated me like one of their own. We swapped recipes and talked, when time permitted. They never made me feel like I was a bother or in the way.

  4. The support we had was amazing. I still get emotional when I think back to those difficult days and remember how many people stepped up to help us. When Veronica was born at 24 weeks, we had five other children at home, including a 1-year-old. My husband was working full time and I went back to work full time 10 days after she was born. Friends, aquaintences and even strangers provided quarters for parking near the hospital, gas cards to get us back and form, daily meals and babysitting. one of my favorites memories was this one – My husband teaches at the school my children attend and some of the teachers pulled my kids aside and asked them what types of foods they like to eat and typical meals we offer. Then they went food shopping and showed up at our door with bags and bags of groceries. They did this twice. I was so touched. The whole experience was so humbling.

  5. I have read a lot of your blog Michelle and I can totally relate to you on so many levels. My twin boys were born at 30 wks. We had a 6 yr old daughter at home about an hour from the hospital the boys were born in and at 2 1/2 wks old one of the little guys had to be transported to Childrens Hospital which was 3 hrs from our home and 2 hrs from the hospital they were born at. For 1 1/2 months we lived in 3 different cities until one of the little guys came home with oxygen. The little guy at Childrens had surgery for hydrocephalus (he had also had a collapsed lung when he was born) and came home at 2 months old. There are sooooooo many people that helped us out I could spend all day listing them. Our biggest help was my parents who took care of our daughter and made sure she got to school every day. The first night the boys were born we came close to losing them both but baby a gave us the biggest scare. When we first went in to see them he had the sweetest nurse. She left a big impression on us. He also had a nurse at Childrens who dressed him in an outfit of a sports team I dislike, it brought a smile to my face when we didnt think they were possible and our little guy left her a note. We are now friends on Facebook. On Oct 9 my little guys will be 1 yr old. It does not seem like that long ago when our world was turned upside down and we cant thank the people in our lives and the strangers who sent us things enough.

  6. I agree, the nurses who took care of my son were amazing! They were the only ones acting like he was just a normal, adorable baby. Neighbors and members of our church were a huge help too. My family brought us food at the hospital for the first few days without asking. I’ll never forget how starving I suddenly was the first time my mom showed up with dinner. Thank you for sharing other ideas to help moms in a similar situation!

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