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What can I expect?

855 Views 14 Replies 12 Participants Last post by  justmama
On Saturday, my SIL delivered a 1lb 8oz baby girl at 28 weeks gestation. Baby is, of course, in the NICU. So far, dh and I have not visited the baby (though we've visited SIL and BIL.) We're a little cautious because we want to minimize the germs she comes in contact with (we have a toddler who is often fine one day, sick the next.)

Anyways, I'm thinking in a couple weeks, I'll go visit the baby. Dh will not because he hates hospitals and the thought of seeing all those tubes coming out of such a tiny baby scares the bejeezus out of him.

So anyways, what can I expect whenever I do decide to visit?

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Kudos to you for going to the hospital. It was huge to have someone want to go to the hospital with me. You can expect the baby to have tons of wires everywhere and maybe some sort of oxygen or ventilator. The babies skin might look translucent and there will be beeping monitors. This is all very normal. i suggest bringing a camera and take some pictures of your sister with her baby. Maybe put them in a frame as a gift for her. show her that you're not afraid of her baby. Tell her how beautiful her baby it. Expect it to be a rollercoaster one 2 step forward and one back. My daughter was born at 27 weeks 2 days and weighed 2 lbs 2 oz. She is now 6 months and we're still dealing with things but she's healthy overall. If you or your sister would like to read her story (complete with my feelings and photos) you can view it at Her birth was in february so look in the archives. Welcome to the forum and congrats auntie!
congrats on your neice!!

suggestion - read the VENT thread on here - it will give you a bit of a compass as to how to navigate with your SIL and her baby.

Then, read the micro preemie thread. that will help too.

it will be scary to see a baby that little and underdeveloped, but what ever you do, say she is beautiful, congratulations, and see beyond the things that are keeping her alive. soon, she will be a fat alert baby, but she needs to get through this stage before that.

if you are really interested, get a book on preemies so you can know what is going on. if you are near your SIL, make her dinners so she doens't have to worry about cooking.

and by all means, do not go to the NICU if you or your child is sick. she may not want visitors right away (probably not) but let her know that you are there for her, and keep letting her know. she may not respond in a timely fashion (she's got a lot on her mind) but she will appreciate it once things settle down.

good luck! Stella
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Originally Posted by munkeesmama
i suggest bringing a camera and take some pictures of your sister with her baby. Maybe put them in a frame as a gift for her.
I like most of the suggestions posted but be very careful of this one. My MIL took a picture of the first time I held my ds and I didn't appreciate it then and still don't appreciate it. And you can tell that from the picture.

Moms go through their own things with regard to recording their time in the NICU. Some take lots and lots of pictures. Some (me and dh) take them only under duress. It's not because we're not proud of ds and who he is; it's because we were just trying to get through the time and weren't interested in taking a lot of pictures to record it.

So while I agree with the sentiment that you should cherish and celebrate the baby, be careful about exactly how you do that.

I would recommend buying some NICU-appropriate baby clothes for her. She might not think to dress the baby other than in hospital gowns, but if the clothes are NICU-appropriate (and you can find them online), the nurses will (generally) be happy to put the baby in the clothes and she will feel more connected to the baby as well.
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I really enjoyed having visitors come see my baby in the NICU. I also enjoyed having pics taken, but yes, obviously ask if it's something she wants before doing that. Especially if baby is having complications, the parents may not be up for visitation or pictures as much as I was.

You can go to blogs of any of the micropreemies here and see what a baby looks like with all the tubes and such, just so you know what to expect with that. The scariest looking tube is probably if there's an IV in the head - that's a common place to put one, and it just freaks people out to see it. I don't think my DS ever had one there, but they did warn me that it might happen at some point (he was off IVs within a few days, so never ended up with it there... he was much bigger than your neice though). Your neice would probably still be on a vent at this point (just a guess based on her size), and may very well still be on one in 2 weeks. But yeah, read the micropreemie threads to get a better idea.
What really helped us was when our older two girls picked out stuffed animals to decorate Sam's isolette with. Maybe your toddler could do that...pick out a small stuffed animal and/or draw a picture to decorate.

I also suggest the preemie clothes. There are some great ones that open an entire front panel to allow easy access to all of baby's wires and tubes.

Offer to take pictures, but don't assume. See if your SIL wants any books to read or activities to do while she's sitting at baby's bedside. My sister sent me a book of crossword puzzles, and I would tuck Sam in my shirt and sit there for hours.

Definitely offer to make dinners to freeze, or to go over and clean their house while their daughter is in the NICU. The biggest lifesaver came when my mother offered to come down and straighten up on the weekends, because I was at the NICU in another city with Sam, and DH worked 60-70 hours/wk, and on the weekends just wanted to come see us.

Other than that, just be there. If your SIL tells you her baby has XYZ condition, research it on your own. Don't ask your SIL what it is or to describe it, because she will be exhausted from trying to process it herself. A simple Google search yielded all the info I needed.

Offer to send out an update e-mail every few days to her family and friends. This really kept our phone call volume down, and enabled us to not freak out about how many people were bugging us. Send an e-mail with baby's name, DOB, weight, and then update with any conditions that may exist (and a link to an online explanation works great!) and weight gain, eating habits, etc. It helps outsiders stay connected, and makes sure that when they DO call, it's brief and they already have the scoop, so to speak.

Congratulations on your niece!! Take care of your SIL and brother...they'll need it right now.

Good luck!!
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Congrats to you and extend congrats to your sil and brother. Also, direct your sil to this website:

great place to answer questions. Our nicu directed us there as well.

I also suggest checking out the vent thread and the micro threads. As a mother of a micro, I agree with all said.

If you want to visit the hospital do it as most convenient for sil and brother. Meaning- find out when they are there mostly and arrange your schedule around it and then meet them there. I cannot tell you how many people would say- can we go at this time or that time or can we car pool etc.

If you are prone to being emotional etc, stay home. Also if the parents dont want you there yet, understand. Also if you do go in, be prepared for beeping sounds, needles, wires, craziness from other patients such as checking in a new baby and the nicu takes "visitors" out.

Research things you heard on your own. Dont ask any quesitons of any hospital staff, you ask your brother later on unless they want you to because you have a background in healthcare.

Also understand your visit may only be 5 minutes or less. Our nicu had a strict policy of 2 only at bedside at all times. So if both parents are bedside, you wait outside until one hands you the visitor pass while they sit outside. We got around this by me going to the pumping room while DH brought the visitor to the bedside.

Be sure to say how beautiful the baby is and how cute she is!!
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As for the pictures. I was thinking if she brought the camera she would be asking. I know I don't have very many pictures with my daughter becaause nobody thought to take them. the few I have I cherish.
Please don't pity your sister, but also recognize that she is going through major stress and loss at this time. Be extra gentle and understanding.

I loved pictures of me. A dear friend came the day after I had her and took pictures of me and my baby. She got wonderful pictures. I don't even mind that my hair is a mess and my face is red from the duramorph. I was so happy she was alive. However, she called me before she came, made sure it was ok to come, and brought her camera. She helped me get mascara on as my doped up hands could not handle that. (I am sure the mascara made me look SO much better.)

Don't quote stats. I hated that. I knew them already. If she is happy, DON'T rain on her parade. Don't talk about friend's babies that died. Don't talk about other babies who were sicker. At that moment, your sister's baby is the sickest in the world, to her.

Don't look at the other families, unless they talk to you. You don't know the "manners" of the NICU. One grandma got in, and started to take a tour. I was holding my little one, and she started over to see my baby. I am sure my body language turned her off, so she headed over to look at the baby next to ours. He was a very sick 25 weeker. I told her to go find her own baby and leave ours alone. (His mommy and I were NICU buddies.) I then called loudly for the nurse. Ignore all the other babies. Don't ask questions. There is an unspoken contract in the NICU that you ignore the other families unless they talk to you, at least in my experience. (It's different for the parents, I am talking about guests here.)

She may only get to hold the baby a little bit. I would suggest that unless she offers, don't ask to hold the baby.

Bring her a small treat. Bring candy for the nurses. For sanitary reasons, I would suggest individually wrapped ones. Chocolate went over huge, as did sugar free candy. I just put them in a small gift bag. A little bribery never hurts.

Don't forget her husband/partner. Bring him something.

I don't know your relationship with your sister, but I WANTED people to come see my baby. I wanted to have people in there within limits. So much of having a new baby is a social/family event, she may want this. I just loved it when someone came in and cooed over my baby. If you or your child is sick, don't visit then, it's not worth it. Sometimes I just wanted to be left alone, so respect that. We were only allowed 2 visitors, so if someone was in there, either I or DH was out.

Even if you are not ready to visit inside the NICU, perhaps take her to lunch in the cafeteria, or even better idea somewhere else. I would go days in there, and the sun felt WONDERFUL on my skin when I went outside.

Send her a congratulation card and a gift. Another dear friend purchased me a subscription to UsWeekly as she knows I LOVE tabloids. Every week when it comes, I remember how she loves me as a person. It was also very nice to have fluff reading material. When I was finished, I passed it on to the nurses.
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My baby isn't a preemie and she was only in the NICU a very short time, but I do have a couple tips based on our experience:

-Be absolutely 100% truthful as to whether anyone in your household has been sick lately. I know you know this, but it doesn't hurt to reiterate.

-If you have to stay away, or it's just going to be a while before you can visit, ask the parents what you can do outside the hospital to make their lives easier, such as feeding pets, watering the garden, etc. I wish someone had offered this to us, we had SO much stress going in so many directions.
I'm on the other end from most of these mamas. My Micro didn't get to come home. I would really encourage your DH to make the visit. This is one of those times when he may have to just try to put his own feelings aside. As a pp said most visits are 5 minutes or less.

We had close family that never came to visit our ds in the 10 days he was in the nicu. Then when they came to the memorial service it was very hard for me to watch them getting sympathy for this loss. I mean h*ll they never even met their nephew, grandson, etc.

Originally Posted by intorainbowz
Send her a congratulation card.
YES! Although her baby is in the NICU, she still had a baby and deserves a congratulations! When I had my other kids, I got tons of cards in the mail... and with Elora, only two from family!
intorainbowzSend her a congratulation card and a gift./QUOTE said:
Amen to that!!

We received 4 "thoughts and prayers" cards. 2 were "sympathy cards" and it was like someone took a knife and stuck it into my heart. As I got the first two, they floored me and I cried on our sofa for an hour. The second two, I literally read and took to the shredder. My father saw one as I read it and said what a terrible card to send. Then I shredded it and he laughed. He was glad I was moving on with it.

We did receive our share of baby girl cards and a cookie arrangement from my moms group that said- Cant wait to meet Maggie. Also my bil and sil sent an edible arrangement. When it arrived, my FIL was over and he said that was the first time he saw me smile that big since MAggie was born.
The congratulatory cards and gifts were definitely a big help.

Also, when I went in to PTL the first time (of three!) my uncle sent me a card with a very stern looking old woman on the front who was tapping her foot, and it said "I'm going to count to three..." then on the inside, "And you better be feeling healthy!" Except that my uncle had scratched out "healthy" and written "unlaborious!" It was cute, and helped me laugh a little when I was so freaked out about being in labor so early.

Originally Posted by intorainbowz
At that moment, your sister's baby is the sickest in the world, to her.

Yes yes yes. SOOOOOOOO many people try the stats route and it just hurts. it feels like they are totally glossing over your pain and your worry. Even my hubby did this and I really really resented it. Our baby was very sick and it was really stressful and hard. Hearing that made it worse. It's been 20 months since her birth and I'm still processing it.

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