Whether due to a routine medical procedure or a surprise emergency hospitalization, it is never easy to have a little one in the hospital. Not only is the emotional toll high and the routine exhausting, but there are many things that don’t get done at home or that are a challenge otherwise. We have been incredibly lucky to have friends and family step forward to help us when Elvie has been in the hospital, and with another surgery coming up at the end of October, they are rallying around us again to support us.
Because Elvie’s first hospitalization was a surprise, initially we were at a loss when people asked what they could do to help. Beyond the obvious of making sure that someone was with Elvie at all times and Zinashi was supervised, we didn’t even know where to begin. Our friends and family very much wanted to support us, but they needed guidance as well. It’s hard to know just what will be helpful in a situation that is far from the usual. Here are seven things that we found to be incredibly helpful. If you know someone with a little one in the hospital, here are things to offer help with. If you are the one with a little one needing extra medical care, here are ideas of what to say when people ask, “How can we help?”
Big Things and Little Things
Whether you’ve got a lot of time or just a little, you can offer valuable help to a family who has a little one in the hospital.
Food is Comfort
Hospital cafeteria food is okay, but having a break from the same old menu is welcome. Call to find out what sounds good to the parent staying at the hospital, or offer to bring a meal for the whole family to enjoy together. If you can pop by with coffee on your way to work, that may also be quite welcome. Mornings were the hardest times for me to sneak out to grab a bite to eat, and breakfast delivery of coffee and a pastry during Elvie’s last hospital stay made a huge difference in our day.
Big Brothers and Sisters Need Care, Too
Whether it simply be a ride to and from school or full day care, getting older sibling care squared away is often one of the biggest challenges of having a baby in the hospital. If the family has older children, ask if they need any help with the bigger kids, or if you might simply take the older siblings out to do something fun while Mom and Dad are preoccupied with the baby.
Pick Up What They Need
Spending most of the day with baby at the hospital leaves little time for running normal errands, especially to places that have limited hours. Ask if there’s anything you can pick up for the family when you are out running your own errands. Perhaps they need toothpaste or shampoo, or they’ve got a few things to mail and need stamps. Ask what little things aren’t getting done, and do them.
Pets Must Not Be Forgotten
Often pets need simple things like food and water being refilled, or maybe the dog needs a walk or the cat litter needs to be changed. While we could do these things in a rush when we came home to shower and change before heading back to the hospital, it was a huge relief when someone offered to take care of it for us. I don’t think I’ve ever been as grateful as I was when someone agreed to clean our cat litter box so I wouldn’t have to add that unpleasant task to my list of things to do in my limited time at home.
Coming Home to a Clean House is a Gift
Basic home maintenance is tough when you’re trying to keep up with life at the hospital and outside it. I know that we needed all the time we had to devote to our baby in the hospital and our big girl at home, and it left no time to keep things put away and to do basic cleaning tasks. Basic clutter clearing, laundry, and cleaning help will lighten the family’s load significantly.
Stock the Freezer and Pantry
Once baby is discharged from the hospital, life can still be chaotic for awhile as follow up care is given. We had friends fill our freezer with meals, and another friend arranged for dinners to be brought to us weekly for a short time after Elvie was out of the hospital. Another friend brought easy-to-grab breakfast and snack items, and we didn’t have to worry about going to the grocery store or cooking as we got settled back into normal life. It made bringing Elvie home from the hospital a true relief, as opposed to a relief mixed with stress of how to make life work again.
Give Moral Support
Emails, text messages, and visits are all appropriate ways to show moral support by sharing encouraging words. Depending on the circumstances of the hospitalization, some families may want lots of visitors for support, while others might be best served by receiving emails or texts throughout the hospital stay. A far away friend sent me encouraging emails nearly every day during Elvie’s last hospitalization, and they brightened my day and helped me to feel more positive about our situation, even when I was too exhausted for visitors.