Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving in the NICU

Today is the last day of Prematurity Awareness Month and I have a post from a friend and fellow blogger, Natasha from Normally Insane.  Natasha has guest posted for me before on the topic of prematurity and I'm excited that she offered to write again about spending Thanksgiving in the NICU.  I do apologize that I'm almost a week late posting this, but due to sickness and being away from the computer during the holidays, it didn't get posted in time.  


Thank you again, Samantha, for letting me guest post. It is an honor J First of, I would like to wish a very (belated) happy Thanksgiving to the readers of your blog. As so many families sit down around the giant roasted bird surrounded by family and friends, I wanted to share our NICU Thanksgiving experience. On Thanksgiving Day 2007, my daughter had been in the NICU for about a month and a half. We were all exhausted and preparing the typical Thanksgiving feast was not on my radar. It felt wrong to celebrate this family holiday in our cozy dining room several miles away from the sterile environment that my daughter lived in. I was overwhelmed with the feelings of loss yet again as the realization that another “first” of her life will be spent in the hospital.

So we chose what was felt right for us that year. We had a very “glamorous” Thanksgiving meal in the hospital cafeteria, as it was the closest location to the NICU where we could eat at. We enjoyed a somewhat dry slice of turkey slathered in a bit of watered-down gravy. Mashed potatoes and canned cranberry sauce adorned out plates. But we were still surrounded by family. We were acutely aware of our blessings (probably much more than we ever were). We said grace. We ate and then we took the elevator 3 floors up to be with Little Miss for the rest of the day. It was a perfect meal that we remember to this day.

My mother, my mother-in-law, Sunshine and Jim enjoying the cafeteria Thanksgiving meal. 

So here are few words of advice that maybe will help you to get through the holiday season.

*   Holidays are laden with expectations. There are meals to prepare, parties to hold, shopping to be done. But let me tell you a secret (which is not really a secret): You need to do only as much as you feel doing. The added stress of the holidays can be very overbearing so don’t fall in the trap of traditions. And even when you decide to scale down, the preparations going on around you can serve as an added reminder of what you are missing. Remember that when you are in an intensive unit environment, all “normal” goes out of the window. You will still look back on this holiday meal (or lack of) and will remember it vividly many years down the line.

*    Take the holidays with you to the unit. We were blessed with very talented nurses that made Little Miss (and other babies) a holiday themed name sign. If your nurses did not do it for you, do it yourself or ask a friend to do it for you. It will become a treasured keepsake. If your baby is wearing clothing, bring in a special outfit to wear that day. And if not, a holiday hat perhaps would fit the bill. Invite family members over (if your unit visitation policy allows so). Take some family pictures, even with an isollete if your baby is not stable enough to be held.

*     Take time for yourself as needed. Talk to friends and family. You yourself might need a bit more support during this busy time. If help is offered, don’t refuse it. Find out if there is a parent support group on the unit. Talking to your peer can be very helpful as well. It is very common to set expectation of discharge by a holiday, and when it does not come to pass the disappointment can add to the stress. Lean on others during this time as you feel the need.

Today we celebrate our 5th Thanksgiving with Little Miss (and 4th with her at the table). If you are a parent of NICU graduate, join me in words of thanksgiving for the blessing our former preemies are. If you are a parent of an angel and there is always an empty spot at your holiday meal, we send you thoughts of strength and support as the holiday season kicks off. If you are a parent of baby currently in NICU we wish you a quiet and “boring” day and you are in our thoughts and prayers.

We hope everyone had a very happy Thanksgiving!


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