Not every pregnancy runs smooth and not every baby comes straight home. The NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) is where newborns go when they're born too early, small or sick to go home on time. It's an isolating experience for most parents when they are thrown into the world of monitors, wires, and incubators. When your baby makes the transition from womb to room too early, a lot of friends do not know how to show support. It can strain friendships and cause further isolation into the potential depression. It's tough trying to figure out what to get or how to be supportive when you have no experience.
Self-Care Beauty Products
Get a gift basket of spa favorites- masks, scrubs for both body and face, scented candles, aromatherapy items, lotions, and anything else you can think of to fill the basket. Nothing beats laying back in a relaxing bath after a long day and all the scrubs and other products will have her skin feeling as soft as her newborn's.
Anything from a stress ball to taking her out to spar with you (boxing or even LARP). Essential oils, creating a soothing music playlist (or a burned CD with her favorite songs) are also good choices. NICU life is stressful and good stress relief helps immensely.
If your friend is alone in a different state, taking up a craft of any kind is very therapeutic. Make sure it's not messy and easy to take from the Ronald McDonald House to the hospital. That's the good thing about loom knitting, all you have to carry are the looms, hook, and yarn. If it's something small, buy a case to store it in as well. Crafting is very therapeutic.
Emotional And Physical Support
This is one gift that you can't buy, but is needed and appreciated. Let the mom know that you're always there for her and are willing to list to her vent, judgment-free. You can schedule a visit with her or a girl's night out to help her take her mind off of everything. Even a simple call or text can mean the world to the new mom. You could wait till the baby comes home and offer to help around the house, by cleaning, cooking meals, or watching any older children the couple may have. Learning how to properly care for a baby with a feeding tube, heart monitor or oxygen and offering to babysit for a few hours so the parents can have some downtime would be a wonderful gesture too!
Hire a photographer to come in and do some natural shots or take a bunch yourself and put them all in a book. The new parents probably have a lot on their plates, so putting together a memory book may not be a top priority. Having someone help out and do it can be a godsend.
NICU parent life is not easy nor is it something anyone is truly prepared to deal with. There will be times when they may almost lose the baby and times the baby will be coming out strong. Other times, they think the baby is really improving then a tiny cold will set them back. It's a roller coaster ride no one is prepared to handle, but, with the right friends, things will be easier.