The last few months of our life with a sick baby have been overwhelming to say the least. Our son was born with a congenital kidney defect. We always thought that he would have surgery around his first birthday and everything would be pretty routine for this minor condition. A few months later, things had taken a bad turn and at just 4 months old, he would need surgery in order to avoid losing function in his right kidney. Our first hospital stay was expected. I packed, had care for our toddler and was prepared to be there as long as we needed. Fast forward to a month later and he experienced a scary complication which sent us flying to the ER and of course, enduring another hospital visit.
Aside from the expected fear and stress of wondering what was going to happen next, we were also feeling the weight of our responsibilities at home. For years I have always wondered and struggled with how to help families dealing with illness or crisis. What do they need? Am I just causing more stress by offering to help? I never had any idea what to do and sometimes it lead me to do nothing at all. We have recovered and the past few months have shown me what some of the most helpful actions and words can be to a struggling family.
This is the same that you’ll hear after welcoming new babies or losing a loved one. The very last thing that you think about when under stress is what your next meal is going be. It’s one thing when you don’t also have kids to feed. Our neighbors and friends set up meal trains and the specific directions were to leave food in a cooler by our door. I love chatting with people, but in this situation, I was tired, not always home and just didn’t want to deal with coordinating food drop off. If you do this for someone, drop a cooler at their house and let everyone know to drop and go. Bonus points for frozen food.
Help with kiddos and animals.
We are so lucky to have a huge family that steps in and takes care of our children when in need, but I felt a lot of guilt that our two year old wasn’t getting attention from us. Friends and family came to get him and took him out for adventures while we stayed home with the baby. We also had friends ship activity boxes to our house to keep him busy while I was home alone with both of them. My favorite idea is a month or two of the Kiwi Crate Subscription Box- lots of things to do based on age, shipped once a month.
Let them know that you’re thinking of them.
This whole situation left me feeling very lonely. There’s always an initial reaction from everyone, but as we continued to deal with it for weeks, life goes on and everyone has their own stuff happening. There were days where you just feel like you’re on a desert island and no one remembers you’re there. Friends sent flowers and cards along the way and a girlfriend even sent a Venmo so I could grab coffee. We didn’t need big, elaborate gifts- just simple gestures to know that people were thinking about us in the midst of their also busy lives.
Send Things to Make the Hospital Stay Easier
A family member put together a big collection of things to take to the hospital: face spray, hair ties, long charging cords, comfortable clothes. You could also send electronic gift cards for Kindle or Audible. There’s a lot of sitting and waiting during hospital stays!
Have you ever been in the hospital with your kiddos? What kinds of things were welcome gestures for you?