Coping with spending the Holidays in the NICU

It's the holiday season and while the world around you is gallivanting around with holiday cheer, you're feeling a lot less than jolly because instead of scrubbing up to prepare to eat your holiday feast, you'll be scrubbing up so that you are safely able to touch and interact with your baby in the NICU. This may be far from what you expected or wanted. You may feel disappointed, anxious, and sad. The feeling of "Why me?" or "This isn't fair" may run across your mind more than once. That's completely okay and totally normal to feel when dealing with a baby in the NICU. Being in and around the NICU is not an easy thing. 

You Can Do It Love GIF by Sarah The Palmer

(source: GIPHY)

First, I want you to know that you are not alone in how you are feeling. When I had my son at 24 weeks in 2018, his first Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas were spent in the NICU. And for me this was a HUGE crusher because I am that holiday person you see every year going all out with the decorations. I felt awful and like I had failed my baby by not giving them a "proper" first holiday season introduction. I cried a lot of tears, but looking back, I'm glad that I did because it was a way for me to get my frustration and sadness out, instead of keeping it bottled up inside. Remember, it's ALWAYS okay to cry and express yourself in healthy ways. Never be ashamed of doing so. We are human and we are designed to cry! 

After you get a good cry out, it's time to think about how you can still celebrate the holidays in the best way you can during this difficult time. You deserve to still celebrate in some way. I also want to mention that it's always okay to take a break from the NICU if you need to, even on holidays. If you want to spend some time with your relatives and friends at their holiday parties, that's completely okay! You may feel some guilt from stepping away from your baby on special days, but trust that the NICU staff has your back and they will watch over your little one while you are away. If you need to call the unit a few times or check your little ones webcam, do it! It's your right and if they're not extremely busy, your baby's nurse is more than happy to give you a quick update. 


Here are some things you can do to bring some holiday cheer with you to the NICU: 

1. Decorate your baby's room 

Check with your NICU to see what exactly is allowed in before doing so, but if permitted, decorate to your hearts desire! Decorating is a great way of expressing yourself and a great way of changing the scenery in your baby's room that is normal just filled with machinery and white walls. It can brighten up the room and make you feel a little better. I know the NICU isn't the home you'd prefer to spend your holiday in, but it is your baby's temporary home, so try to make the best of it in any way you can! 

2. Get dressed up!

Who said all those wires connected to your little one can stop you from getting them all dolled up for the holiday season? Sometimes your baby isn't able to wear costumes or clothes just yet depending on their condition and size, but there are still ways to dress them up for festivities. There are felt costumes/clothes that you can put over top of them to not disturb them too much or sometimes just a festive bow or hat will do the trick! And don't forget to take some family pictures if you feel up to it. I absolutely hated taking pictures in the NICU around holidays, but looking back, I'm very grateful to have them because it reminds me of where we used to be and how far we've come. 


3. Make holiday keepsakes

These were my favorite things to do and look forward to around the holidays in the NICU! Kylo's nurses always did an amazing job of making the absolute cutest holiday keepsakes for him and it inspired me to make my own. Get as fancy and creative as you want for this (or not, sometimes less is more 😆) All you really need is: construction paper, markers, and glue and you're on your way to making the greatest holiday keepsake your baby will ever see 😍)

Here are a few DIY examples if you're looking for some:

Happy Holidays GIF - Happy Holidays Holiday Minions GIFs


Remember, you are never alone and your feelings are always valid. I know it's so hard to make the best out of a tough situation, but you're doing your best and that's all the matters! Take care of yourself this holiday season. You deserve it and your baby deserves the best version of you that you can offer! 


Nico Shanel 💜



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