The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) can be a very intimidating place for parents. There are multiple websites and books that attempt to prepare parents for this experience, but unfortunately nothing can truly prepare you. The “rollercoaster” that it is often referred to is an understatement. Life in the NICU does not change by the week, or even the day, but by the hour. The norm is that babies take a few steps forward, and then a few steps back. There is a constant sound of alarms, smell of antibacterial gel and views of the tiniest babies with tubes and breathing apparatus.
The doctors, nurses and staff at a NICU are truly amazing people. Fortunately there are many happy stories to come out of a NICU, but there are also many that end like ours in tragedy. It takes a special person to do the work they do, and so many families are so grateful to them. We know we are. Our babies did not survive, but for the 13 days Abby was with us and 25 days for Jack, they were under incredible care and love.
From our experience, when you are in the NICU with your baby(ies), you are in a zone. You do not live your life outside of the NICU, you barely eat (as much as the staff encourages you to), you want to stay there as often as you can which limits your own sleep. So taking care of yourself, as important as we all know that is, becomes secondary to your sick baby(ies). We realized that providing close-by housing and food would be so helpful to these families. Many hospitals provide rooms to stay in when things become critical as well as food vouchers to eat in the cafeteria. But the reality is that staying at the hospital is the worst thing you can do, especially long-term because there are so many germs there and you don’t want to put your baby(ies)’ immune systems at any higher risk. Also, you can only eat chicken fingers so long. Therefore the Foundation wants to help provide local hotel stays at affordable costs and local food coupons for restaurants so that the parents can attempt to take care of themselves the best they can for their baby(ies).
For those who are low-income or just having financial difficulties during this time, the Foundation wants to assist in the needs of their babies. Many families will already have clothes, diapers and car seats ready to go at home, however preemies sometimes require much smaller items, which of course cost money. Some car seats say they fit “preemies” but those are usually considered 5 lbs or more. By the time babies go home from the NICU they may not yet be 5 lbs. There are many factors that contribute to a baby’s release and if they are breathing well on their own, amd eating on their own, they may not necessarily be 5 lbs. Every NICU has differing criteria, but in general car seats sometimes need to be rented for this purpose.
Here are some links that better explain the NICU experience: