September is NICU awareness month! Hooray!! NICU awareness month is a chance for survivors to be celebrated, workers to be appreciated, and people to be educated. In the spirit of the season, (kind of?) let’s talk about what active NICU awareness looks like.
- NICU awareness means supporting NICU families! So many of us are good at offering them support because we’ve walked in their shoes, walked with someone through it, or been survivors ourselves, but in some ways, we fail the families going through it right now. There’s so much toxic culture surrounding the perceived scale of “sickness” a NICU baby has. What you might not know is that over 50% of babies admitted to a NICU are full-term, yet they still need special care! As such, there’s no NICU baby greater than another, and every parent who leaves their baby behind those doors endures the stress – whether it’s for a couple days or eight months! Active NICU awareness means validating the stress of any NICU parents, no matter how long they stayed, it almost definitely was a traumatic experience.
- NICU awareness means understanding the journey isn’t always easy. It’s well understood that the NICU is a stressful experience for parents, but often it doesn’t end with discharge. Many NICU graduates are going to have special developmental, educational, and medical support throughout their lives. What we can do is appreciate the small progress and see it for the huge progress it is! A NICU mom might see things differently than you do, and that’s okay! Active NICU awareness means seeing the ability! Getting off of an IV is progress! Putting on an ounce of weight is progress! A dirty diaper is progress! Celebrate with us!!
- NICU awareness means being a helper! For a NICU parent, they might be really overwhelmed. It’s hard to see your baby poked and prodded, praying for a miracle. There’s a lot of rain before the rainbow! What we can do is offer specific help – it’s hard work for an overwhelmed mom or dad to have an answer for “is there anything I can do?” Take some initiative! Pray for the baby! Pray for the parents! Pray for the hands of the caregivers! Every little bit helps, I promise.
- NICU awareness means keeping your big germs away from the little babies! Often, these little ones aren’t so well endowed in the immune system department, so if you come over to hold a freshly discharged neonate, wash your hands! And if Mom or Dad says they’d rather you stay away, know it isn’t personal!
- NICU awareness means raising awareness the ways you know how to! If you’re a marathon runner, heck! Run for the babies! If you’re a business owner, consider sponsoring a March of Dimes event! If you’re a college student, be #FTK! Do what you can to share your active awareness with those around you.
More than anything, be kind! If you have questions, ask them; if you see something, don’t stare; if you know a survivor, be thankful for them; if you know someone who lost their battle, grieve with them. Be there for moms, dads, grandparents, siblings, and everyone in between. I can guarantee you’ll see miracles and extraordinary love that conquers all.
Thanks for checking in and remember to be #nicustrong
Sources: National Perinatal Association, March of Dimes SC