When our youngest son was born with a serious medical issue, our whole world changed overnight. Instead of the sleepless nights, baby cuddles, and diapers we expected, we found ourselves navigating surgeries, uncertain prognoses, and lengthy hospital stays.
Our friends and family shared our heartache and hope for our sweet new baby. It seemed like everyone we knew offered to help. But we were so overwhelmed we didn't even know what we needed.
After speaking with other families in similar situations, I've gathered the top ten ways you can help if your friend's baby is born with a serious medical issue.
1. Help with the older kids
The arrival of a medically fragile baby can be really hard for older siblings. Parents suddenly have much less time and attention to devote. Offer to pick up older kids for a play date, give them a ride to preschool, or bring them a coloring book or game.
2. Help with the household
Most parents want to spend every waking minute at the hospital with their baby, so it can be difficult to find time to do laundry, mow the lawn, or shop for groceries. Dive in and help!
The last thing your friend wants to do when she finally comes home from the hospital is cook. Drop off a hot meal, or a freezer meal for later.
4. Gift Cards
Expenses add up fast when a baby is in the hospital. Gift cards for local restaurants, gas, or even hospital parking will be greatly appreciated.
Long days at the hospital can be really lonely. Offer to stop by and visit. It can also be hard for a mom to leave her baby alone in the hospital. Offer to come sit with the baby so mom can head out for a walk.
6. Make a care package
Hospitals are cold and sterile. Make your friend a care package to help her feel at home. Include items like lip balm, toiletries, a journal, energy bars, and a cozy scarf.
7. Fund Raise
Having a baby in the NICU is incredibly expensive. We joked that our son was the "million dollar baby." Friends of ours set up a GoFundMe page to help with medical expenses. It was a huge help.
8. Reach Out
Write a note to let your friend know you're thinking of her or praying for her. Send a text (but don't expect a reply!). Just knowing that people love and care can help so much.
If your friend wants to talk, just listen. You don't need to have the perfect words. One mom said she just wished that her friends could hear that her life had changed, most likely forever.
10. Keep offering to help
This is the big one. Once the baby comes home from the hospital, it seems like the medical crisis is over. But for many families, it is harder, lonelier, and scarier once they leave the support of the hospital. Keep checking in with your friend, again, and again, and again.
Special thanks to the EA/TEF Support Group families for sharing their experiences.