I was inspired by a recent post on Design Mom about how to support your friends who have children in the hospital. There were so many wonderful suggestions in the article and in the comments. It made me think about all the things I found helpful when Peter was in the hospital, and even after when he was home with hospice care before he died.
I decided to share the thoughts that came to mind that I might not have shared before and echo the sentiments shared in the article. (See my previous post What to Say When You Don't Know What to Say, for more ideas.)
Things that I found helpful:
1. A Sibling Gift Bag:
Zach's boss and his wife visited us in the hospital and brought us flowers, a baby gift for Peter, as well as a gift bag for Lucy that contained a coloring book and stuffed animal. It was so thoughtful of them to think of her, and it was helpful to have something special for her to play with and entertain her when she visited us in the hospital.
2. Mom Gift Bag:
Some of the lovely ladies I served with at church visited me right after Peter was born and brought me flowers, nail polish, lotion, and chocolate chip cookies. It was such a nice treat to receive a gift that was for me instead of just something for the baby. I had never thought of giving a gift for the new momma. It was nice to be able to spend a few moments on myself painting my nails during one of the many days I spent in the hospital. Especially since if I was in my room, I was usually alone while Peter was in the NICU.
You can't always get room service, and the cafeteria isn't always open when you are hungry. Several friends brought snacks for me to put in my nightstand drawer so I would have something to eat if I needed it. This food came in handy when I got hungry in the middle of the night, and needed something to eat while doing a 3am breast milk pumping session.
4. Time Away:
My step-mom took me to get frozen yogurt one afternoon while she and my father were visiting. We had spent the day at the hospital and it was nice to just have a break from the hospital room, go somewhere else, and take a mental and physical break.
My first night away from the hospital after being released was an emotional one. It was so hard to leave without Peter. Something that helped was having our friends over that evening to play games like we normally would on a Friday night. We played games and didn't really talk too much about what was happening in our life. It was so nice to just have a break and focus on something else for a short while and feel a bit of normalcy. It was also really refreshing to take a real shower and sleep in a good bed for a night before heading back to the hospital the next morning.
I believe one of the reasons we were blessed to be able to deal and cope with the tragedy of losing a child so well was the power of prayer on our behalf from friends, family, and in some cases strangers. I was so touched to know that nurses and doctors who were caring for me and Peter were praying for us. What I loved even more was that they were not afraid to tell us that they were praying for us, even if they were not of our faith, or barely knew us. There is power in prayer. Knowing that people were praying for us helped buoy us up.
6. Attention for Lucy:
It was so helpful to have family come and visit during this time. Not only so that they could meet Peter, but also for the emotional support, as well as the help and attention they gave to Lucy. We always had someone to watch her, and even after family left, friends were willing to come over and take Lucy on walks to go "cat hunting" and read stories with her. It was so nice to have other people who were able to give Lucy one-on-one attention while we were trying to care for Peter while he was alive, as well as trying to prepare and make arrangements for his death and funeral.
Ideas from the post that I loved:
1. Roll of quarters:
For buying snacks from the vending machines at the hospital.
2. Gas cards:
Many people have to travel back and forth from home to the hospital. Gas adds up.
3. Mom Gift Bag:
Some additional things mentioned in the comments that I thought were a great idea were: a novel to read, DVDs to watch in the hospital room, and board/card games
For parking. I had never thought of the fact that some places might charge you for parking. That would really add up if you were visiting a family member at the hospital for months at a time.
5. Offer to be a spokesperson:
This idea is so good! This comment made by Leah sums it up perfectly:
"One other idea is to offer to be the spokesperson for the family. Though well-meaning, people often ask lots and lots of questions and it is tiresome to keep repeating the same (sad) story. With a spokesperson, you only have to tell the story once and the spokesperson communicates it to (and fields questions from) everyone else."
I had a friend offer to be a spokesperson for me when I was pregnant with Peter when we weren't sure if he was okay or not. At the time I was serving as a leader in the children's organization of our church and so didn't interact with other adults very much on Sunday. My friend was in the loop on the status of my pregnancy and if it was going well or not, and let the president of the women's organization know what was going on and updated her so I didn't have to.
They also announced in the women's meeting that there were some unanswered questions about the health of my unborn baby, that it was a sensitive topic, and that I would appreciate it if people didn't come up to me and ask me about my pregnancy unless I brought it up myself, and that if they wanted to know updates to ask the Presidency. This was a huge help to me.
After Peter was born I used facebook and my blog to share updates with everyone at once.
The main takeaway message should be that trying to reach out in love, and even saying that you don't know what to say is better than doing and saying nothing.
One of my favorite quotes is:
"When a friend is in trouble, don't annoy him by asking if there is anything you can do. Think up something appropriate and do it."
-Edgar Watson Howe
Hopefully this list (or this one) can help you think of something appropriate!
Small deeds done are better than great deeds planned.
What other suggestions do you have? I would love to hear the kind things someone has done for you in your time of need that you found helpful.