Supporting a friend with a very premature baby

(18 Posts)
FreeWee Fri 30-Aug-13 23:35:11

DF has had her DS at 23 weeks this week. He's a little fighter and she was absolutely fab when my DD was born so I want to support her the best way I can. Which is?

My DH suggested I didn't send a congratulations card incase they lost him but I believed they should be congratulated for becoming parents no matter how long or short that precious time lasts. But what do I do about a present? Or more tangible support? How often do I text? What words of support would help? She lives a little way away so I think visiting will be out for a while and I think she'd rather I left her to it. It's a devastating time for her and her DH and I want to be as supportive as possible without intruding. Thanks for any advice.

gallicgirl Fri 30-Aug-13 23:44:04

My cousin had a preemie and asked for no cards and presents initially which I was devastated about as I felt as you do. However I had to accept her wishes and sent a card several weeks later when prognosis was better. I think she left everything to one side until she was ready to open them.

Practically, do shopping, washing, offer lifts, time away if she needs it.
There is a charity called PopnGrow who do clothes for preemies; the hospital will have to contact them though.
Talk to Bliss, they provide great support.

FreeWee Sat 31-Aug-13 08:42:43

Thanks gallicgirl yes perhaps she can put the card to one side if she doesn't feel ready to open it.

byanothername Sat 31-Aug-13 15:51:27

Being in a special intensive care ward with a preemie is so, so tough.
The nicest things that people did for me:
- arrive at the hospital one lunch-time with nutritious food for me and DH to have a quick picnic lunch (there was a "Family room" with microwave on one of the hospital corridors where we could sit)
- offer to take lovely photo of me and DH together by the incubator (or holding baby's hand if possible) or let us borrow their v good camera!
- send lots of texts of support/checking how we were even if we couldn't always manage to get back to them (eg just thinking of you, how's baby doing? etc etc)
- offer to help DH do some house stuff/laundry/shopping/cooking when he had to keep running back home
- come to the hospital just to sit with me outside baby's special care room for a five-minute break
- found/sent me some extra clothes for myself for the hospital
- sent congratulations cards/ said congratulations. Personally, the worst thing for me was someone I knew actually saying many months later "Sorry I didn't send a card but I wasn't sure if the baby was going to die" shock

You sound like a great friend. Good luck to your friend, hope all goes ok.

FreeWee Sat 31-Aug-13 16:20:33

Thanks byanothername I wondered (silly isn't it) do really premature babies wear clothes in the hospital? I can't imagine at 23 weeks he'll be out of the incubator much. But doing their laundry and bringing fresh clothes for the mum and dad is a good idea. My DH said we should wait till we see them when he's out of hospital and I see his point but I felt that was a bit like saying 'we're not buying a card till we know he'll live'.

byanothername Sat 31-Aug-13 17:22:01

Not a silly question at all! Mine didn't wear any clothes for well over a month. But one of the first things they always need are lovely cotton hats and little booties/socks. Also, in quite a few weeks if they're able to do skin-to-skin contact with parents, they would need a lovely soft (cotton perhaps) baby blanket/shawl to wrap round them. We weren't allowed stuffed toys or anything like that in the room but were allowed "Sophie the giraffe", that rubber teething toy, to prop in the corner of the incubator at a later stage. As the baby progresses out of incubator at much later stage, things like a lovely soft baby towel is useful, but that's quite a late stage...

byanothername Sat 31-Aug-13 17:24:01

....by hats, that should read proper tiny preemie hats. I'm not sure of who supplies them these days..
Have you looked on the Bliss (prem baby organisation) website, they probably have some v good ideas too

gallicgirl Sat 31-Aug-13 19:40:07

Bbc stoke has knitting patterns. If you google "ray of hope" you might find it.

NowFourSpuds Sat 31-Aug-13 21:21:43

I had twins last year at 23 weeks, they turn ten months old on Monday!
I personally liked to receive cards once the twins were born, although they were very ill I still wanted them to be recognised as our babies! I had a few 'thinking of you' and blank cards with a lovely message inside.
Other things that helped were a friend sending a message saying initially '3 days old today' etc and then 'I week old today!' Nothing more, it just helped me to know she as thinking of us.
My wonderful SIL bought me a loose top with buttons down the front (h&m I think) for me to use when the twins were ready for 'Kangaroo Care'.
Other equally wonderful SIL got the twins a lvest and hat each- they were from Jojo Maman Bebe -which were specifically for prem babies and had different fastenings to allow for all the tubes and wires. They didn't need them for about 8 weeks but I liked knowing we had them- it was a very special moment when they were ready to wear them!
Micro nappies always came in handy!
We had a book of short stories and poems to read to the twins each night.
I hope that helps, just be there for your DF, perhaps have a look on the Bliss website and order the family handbook so your familiar with some of the NICU terminology? Good luck to your friend, the success stories are out there!! Ours are currently snoring loudly upstairs x

Summerdaydreams Sun 01-Sep-13 08:13:10

What a kind friend you are!
My baby was born at 27 weeks and was critically ill for many weeks. Some people got us congratulation cards, others waited until she was home. It was nice thought to have cards sent upon birth but I think your other half is right in holding off. Maybe a little toy for the incubator instead, our NICU did allow toys. Also one of my more religious friends ( we are not overly) stuck a prayer to her incubator and placed an angel figure on her shelf. Very touching.

It will be a long hospital stay, ups and downs, and i found people were initially interested but it dwindled only my few good friends were consistent. The best thing Would be to let her know you are there. There will be times when she is too down to to reply or talk, but don't be offended, let her know you are there. The best thing my friend did was came up the hospital and sat by my little girls incubator for hours with me, I will never forget that kindness, at times I dreaded going into the hospital when DH was at work, for fear of what news we would be told but having my friend there was amazing. Doing the laundry, cooking meals like others have mentioned too.
Wishing her baby all the best x

FreeWee Tue 03-Sep-13 20:34:41

Thanks for all the lovely advice and your stories of hope. I will take a look at the Bliss website and hopefully support her how she would like to be supported. I caught up with a mutual friend of mine and DF and she'd had exactly the same conversations with her DH! So we're going to find ways to support her together and I'll tell her about the website too. Thank you all x

Mandy21 Thu 05-Sep-13 14:50:09

Its all very personal and some people want the birth to be treated like any other birth, some don't. I didn't. I couldn't bring myself to "celebrate" (by opening cards etc) when I didn't know if or when I'd get to take my babies home (born at 27 weeks).

I think other people have mentioned the practical support you can offer - just being there, spending time with her, taking a food parcel to the hospital, doing a supermarket shop for her (online maybe, get it delivered), offer her lifts etc. We were allowed 1 little toy and 1 blanket - something little like that maybe? Hand cream / nice toiletries for the mum if she's going to stay in hospital for a while.

My absolute favourite "gift" was from a friend of my husband's who worked close to the hospital and just bought me a notepad and pen and she put her works telephone number in the front. Lots of people who've been through SCBU recommended making notes, or keeping a diary, so that when there are bad days (and there will be bad days with a 23 weeker - its often a case of 1 step forward and 2 steps back with any prem baby) you can look back at some of the early notes / diary entries and realise just how far they've come. It also gave me something to do when I was sitting at the side of the incubator for hours on end.

valiumredhead Thu 05-Sep-13 15:09:25

Personally I think cards and gifts acknowledge the fact there is a new baby in the world and should be celebrated, unless parents have said no specifically. Cards, gifts etc normalise things when nothing is normal.

valiumredhead Thu 05-Sep-13 15:10:49

A shawl/blanket would be something that could be used a soon as she's able to spend time out of the incubator and continue to be used as baby grows.

valiumredhead Thu 05-Sep-13 15:18:11

And wrt texting, tell her you will text often /every day but you know she's shattered and busy so not to worry about texting back unless she feels like it. I had long stretches in hospital on my own and definitely appreciated the texts I had although back then texting wasn't as common place as it is now.

Mama1980 Wed 11-Sep-13 12:39:01

Hi I had my ds1 at 26 weeks ds2 last year at 24 personally I appreciated all the cards I got. Ds2 was given a less than 25% survival chance (he's currently trying to figure out how to get a spoon to his mouth grin) but I needed my baby acknowledged.
Plenty of texts and messages even if there not replied too nicu is a awful place to be and you can feel very alone.
Practically good food is always appreciated was a notepad and a book to read to ds.
Also if you think maybe direct her here? The ladies on my ante natal thread were lifesavers for me, talking in the middle of the night and checking in everyday.
You sound lovely grin thanks And I hope baby is doing well.

impecuniousmarmoset Wed 11-Sep-13 17:44:11

DS born at 26 weeks, now 3. I loved getting cards, the best were the ones which acknowledged that things were uncertain but that also acknowledged that he was born, with us in the world and that that should be celebrated. Clothes on the other hand were a bit too raw for that stage - he wasn't in clothes for over a month, and it just was a bit much at that early stage to get a pack of tiny babygros when his survival was still so uncertain. I still appreciated the gesture though!

The most immediately thoughtful and helpful support we got involved a big package of homemade cake and brownies, delivered to the hospital when DS was a few days old. It literally became our dinner for several evenings when we just didn't have the energy to think about proper food. It wasn't from a close friend, but I've never forgotten how wonderful a gesture it was. I've tried in times of crisis for other friends to remember that one can rarely go wrong with home baking!

FreeWee Wed 11-Sep-13 23:00:04

Thanks again everyone. A friend has texted her asking for a list of things she needs and as I'm on maternity leave I'm coordinating it amongst the friends. He's doing really well getting stronger every day smile

Thanks for the advice about clothes. I think we'll focus on getting the nursery finished as I know how nice it is to choose your baby's first outfits.

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