A beloved tradition for growing families, baby showers are celebrations to welcome new life. Yet when babies arrive too soon, families’ dreams are replaced with painful realities: hospital life, anxiety, fear of loss and the stress of life-or-death medical decisions.
Hand to Hold, a nonprofit organization serving NICU families nationwide, is hosting its second annual Baby Shower – The Gift of a Bright Future for NICU Families to honor all families who have experienced life with a baby in neonatal intensive care and raise funds for Hand to Hold to expand its support and programs for these families in Central Texas and in communities across the United States.
Emily Galatzan, Co-Chair of the event, knows the pain and isolation of having not one, but two preemies in the NICU. Her twins, Anna and Libby, were born via emergency C-section at just 28 weeks, each weighing just over 2 pounds. They spent 56 days in the NICU.
Emily shared some thoughts about her NICU experience:
I woke up to realize that I was no longer pregnant. In fact, I had to ask Josh if our girls were still alive. They were but had been immediately taken to the NICU. It was absolutely terrifying. I didn’t see my daughters until the next day. I was not prepared for how small they were – they were unrecognizable, covered in machines and plastic. It was worse than I had imagined – I couldn’t look at these babies and imagine their futures. I wasn’t sure my heart could handle feeling the emotions of this journey, with not just one, but two children.
The hardest parts of any NICU experience are the scary medical jargon, uncertainty and isolating feelings you experience even when you are surrounded by other people. Your end goal is take your baby home, but taking baby home is also frightening. It is an incredible challenge to feel equipped to take care of a medically fragile child, or two, outside of the hospital.
When I look back at this time in our lives, I wish that Hand to Hold had been founded and available to us. I NEEDED their support and resources both when the girls were in the NICU and once they were home. I was struggling emotionally, and I was so far out of my league and ill-prepared for this journey. Nothing had gone according to plan, and it was out of our control. We had to face what each day had in store for us, one day at a time. At times I was paralyzed with fear. I had no one to talk to, no support or empathy and a lack of information.
Anna and Libby are now happy and healthy 8-year-old girls who love playing with big brother Charlie (10), and little sister Molly (5).
Emily’s tips on helping a friend with a baby in the NICU
After you congratulate your friend on their new arrival, find ways to help ease their load. These NICU parents may be frightened and emotional, and will appreciate expressions of love and support.
- Love: Send thoughtful cards and emails, lend a listening ear, leave care packages on their doorstep, all to show you care. If they don’t have a family spokesperson, you may offer to help them inform friends and family.
- Food: Rally friends and family to provide meals on a set schedule. Gift cards, freezable meals and snacks are appreciated during the turmoil of a baby’s hospital stay.
- Siblings: If they have older siblings, offer to help with their care so mom and dad can spend time with baby in the hospital.
- Household: Managing a household while spending time at the hospital is hard. Collect gift cards, help them with lawn care, pick up laundry and run errands to make their lives easier.
- Financial: Consider taking up a collection that can be used for medical bills, ongoing therapy, a date night or babysitter.
- Transportation: Parking passes and rides are thoughtful gifts because mom may be unable to drive while recovering from birth, and hospital parking garage fees can be an unexpected expense.
Hand to Hold’s Annual baby Shower Fundraising Luncheon:
Fri., Nov. 6, 2015 – 11 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Hyatt Downtown Austin, 208 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78746
Tickets: $150 each
Activities include unique Baby Shower games with prizes such as jewelry, spa treatments and fine dining gift certificates, all on the shores of Lady Bird Lake at Hyatt Downtown Austin. Inspiring guests to share courage and strength with each other, Glennon Doyle Melton, the New York Times Bestselling Author of Carry On, Warrior, founder of Momastery.com and mother of three, will hold an intimate, personal conversation with Hand to Hold Executive Director Kelli Kelley about “showing up in our darkest, most challenging life moments.”
Hand to Hold is a community-based, national support program for parents of preemies, babies born with a special health care need and those who have experienced loss due to these or other complications.
The nonprofit organization’s vision is to enable a network of families to offer support, comfort and understanding to one another, and to provide them with knowledge, information and resources to ensure the best outcome for their children and family. For more information, visit www.handtohold.org.
By Elaine Krackau