As the holidays are approaching I can’t help but think about how 3 years ago I spent half of my Thanksgiving Day in the NICU visiting my son, and the other half was spent at home with the rest of my babies! That particular year was one of the hardest holiday seasons EVER, especially since our son didn’t make it through the Christmas holiday.
I remember my cousin came in town for the Holidays because we were going through so much. She wanted to lay her eyes on Darrick II and just be there for the rest of us. Thanksgiving morning, we woke up and headed to the hospital to see Darrick II. I knew that was the first thing I wanted to do before celebrating the holiday. I really don’t think I celebrated the holiday I think I was actually just “floating” or going through the motions. It wasn’t a bad day but it doesn’t go down in my book as one of the best ones either.
I remember Darrick and I planned to go back to the hospital later that evening, however, since the morning was rough he recommended we took a break that evening and we would go back first thing Friday morning…
Spending the holidays in the NICU brings on a new set of challenges besides just having a child in the NICU.
Here are a few tips for surviving the holidays in the NICU:
1. Decorate and continue with traditions as much as you can
If you want to buy the holiday inspired outfits, do just that! Ask first, then decorate your child’s room if its allowed. We bought a monogrammed stocking to hang on Darrick II’s bed, it was smaller than the one at home but it still gave me the feels of the holidays. Also decorate at home, its nothing like coming from the hospital to a home that is not decorated for the holidays, it seems like the lights and festivities bring cheer, so whatever your tradition is continue with it.
2. Go home and enjoy family
I know you are torn but it is okay to visit for a couple of hours and go home. Especially if you have other children at home, you have to still provide a nice holiday for them. I know its hard but shouldn’t be neglected at this time. Take the time to engage in funny family conversations, eat, play games…trust me, YOU NEED THIS!!!
3. Participate in the family activities that the hospital provides
Many hospitals know how hard the holidays can be, especially on the children’s floor. Take the time to participate in some of the festivities the hospital provides. Family Dinners, Christmas Parties, in our city usually the Professional Sports teams come around to see the children: make sure you are there when they come. These events will help definitely put a smile on your face!
4. Ask your family for help
Whether that is bringing you a plate for dinner, or just going to the hospital for moral support! I know you don’t want to ruin the holiday but there is nothing wrong with asking for help, especially if you have other children.
5. Go on a date
I know this sounds crazy but sometimes getting out of the normal routine of sitting in the hospital can be just what the doctor ordered. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant (after all you just had a baby) but try a new restaurant or go for coffee. Sit and talk, or people watch, it helps with the anxiety from everything that’s going on.
6. Take a ride around your city
My husband and I would often take the long way home just to clear our head after leaving the hospital. This helps with processing everything that is going on there if you are coming home to children. It also helps in general to take your mind off things for a few minutes. Since it was holiday time we would ride around and see Christmas lights to clear our head.
7. Donate a toy or baby item to the hospital
Whenever we get a chance Darrick and I try to donate a toy or baby item to the Children’s Department of the Hospital. We have donated a baby rocker in honor of our son who passed away. And I won a giveaway at an event I went to and I plan to donate that car to the NICU. Both times I had children in the NICU, my family benefitted from toys, snacks and hospitality the hospital provides so when I have the chance I pay it forward.
And most of all cherish the time! You never know what can happen, and although you are in the hospital try to make the most of this time because although we wish we could stop the time so we aren’t spending the holidays in the NICU the reality is we can’t, so make the most of the time you are there. Hopefully you will look back and smile at those memories and think about how far your child has come!
Carissa Godbott is lifestyle and parenting blogger based out of Cleveland, OH and blogs at The Green Eyed Lady Blog, which is a where she discusses all things parenting, marriage, motherhood, travel and product reviews. She is married to her husband Darrick, and has three children Emma, Darrick II (deceased) and Douglass James (DJ). Emma was born with a Cleft Lip and Palate and spent the first 50 days of her life in the NICU at Metrohealth Medical System, she graduated from the NICU and is doing great in Pre-K! Darrick II and Douglass are identical twins, at birth we found out Darrick II had Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia and his organs were pushed into his chest cavity, he was immediately transported to Cleveland Clinic NICU (Level III NICU) where his hernia was repaired, however, the condition of his heart unrepairable. He passed away 58 days after his birth. DJ is currently thriving in preschool!