I had a friend email me and another friend a couple of months ago. She had a friend who was about to deliver a baby with major health concerns. She emailed us because we both had recently had babies with on-going health concerns and major issues as well, and she knew we could give some practical info on how to help her friend.
Well, this friend just a few days ago unexpectedly delivered her own baby 2 months early due to pre-eclampsia. Isn't our God so interesting? I have been meaning to write a blog about this topic for some time, but wanted to do so now so that I could offer it as help for her (from a distance), and for anyone else who knows someone going through a crisis. Some of the info is specific to our situations (young mothers with children and babies with special needs), but much of it can be applied to anyone in a type of crisis situation. In no way is this list exhaustive, so if you know of any other ideas, please comment and share. In no particular order, here we go! (Much of this is copied and pasted from the original email communication between us three women.)
-Don't ask, just help. One of the most overwhelming things is to have so many people tell you to just let them know what they can do. We feel like we are already asking so much and relying so much on others. Just pick something to do (maybe from this list!) and do it.
-Have one person be the contact person for the family. The family can communicate needs to that person, and those wishing to help can contact that person instead of the family receiving calls all the time. Especially when baby is in hospital and they are needing to make calls for baby's care, at the hospital a lot, and trying to spend time with older children at home, it's hard to have a lot of time to spend answering phone calls from people just checking in and returning phone calls.
-Send gift cards (gas, grocery, local restaurants). The family can keep them and use when needed, and not feel bad about spending money to eat out again for instance, or arranging to get a meal delivered, etc.
-Send money. This is hard for me to write, but it was so helpful to receive. It's a hard time, and lots of extra money is being spent on random things like food, snacks, gas, etc. I am a big couponer, but I didn't have time to do that, so that was more money spent. Usually one or both parents are missing more work than usual, etc. Generous donations made a huge difference.
-Set up meals. Make sure they are healthy (sometimes too many rich, creamy, delicious meals can be, well, too much, and a simple salad is a nice welcome change!). Just make sure to communicate with the family so they aren't receiving too much food at once. That can be overwhelming.
-Make freezer meals to store for later. (Again, check on need and space, though.)
-Make up a bag for mom to have at the hospital. Reading material (preferably "light" material, not heavy, emotional books), notebook and pen, snacks (granola bars, individually packaged things, water bottles) that are labeled with name (for fridge at hospital, if available), small lotion/hand sanitizers, etc.
-Send notes of encouragement and prayer.
-Help with older children. Consistent people are great. Fun activities are good, but sometimes just a nice quiet time of play is nice too. Too much stimulation and change for the older kids, who are already going through a lot, can be too much for them. For example, if the same person is available the same day of each week, make it a standing thing to care for the kids on that day every week, as needed.
-Get a list of regularly consumed things in the home (such as typical snacks that the kids eat, etc.) and bring them over. Also paper products (all households go through paper towels and toilet paper!), laundry detergent, dish soap, trash bags. Just drop them off to the family (on the porch, or some other place).
-Diaper and wipes. Always useful! Also can get for the older kids if they are still in diapers.
-When you bring a meal, pick up a load or two of laundry, then wash and bring back folded the next day.
-Pay for a house keeper. There's not much time in the midst of the sudden craziness to be cleaning, so pay for someone to come do it once a week (or volunteer to be that person if the family would prefer someone they know).
-Also make sure yard work is taken care of. Don't just stop at mowing the grass, but make sure the weed eating is done, bushes are trimmed, weeds are pulled, mulch is in beds, maybe even plant some flowers if needed and appropriate.
-Come over and do other random chores over and beyond regular cleaning. Someone came and washed my blinds shortly after Waverly was born, and that meant a lot to me. It's certainly something I would not have had time to do for quite some time (and honestly, they haven't been washed since then!).
Also, be careful about what is said. Often, in times of crisis, people just want to help and offer encouragement, support, and comfort. But sometimes hurtful things are said unintentionally (and I know I have done it too!).
-Tell the family congrats on the new baby and how beautiful he/she is.
-Little words of encouragement are nice, but cliche sayings can be hard to hear ("God doesn't give you more than you can handle." "God gave you this because you are such a great person.").
-Don't ask lots of questions about the future, because it's just so unknown. Especially about the future of the family ("So, do you think you're done having kids?"). It's an emotional time, and that's not a great time to bring up stuff like that.
-Don't question why something happened or decisions that were already made (medical or otherwise). Don't try to sympathize by saying you know what they're going through, because every.single.situation is different (which is why some of this advice may not even be appropriate or helpful in all situations).
I hope that this can be helpful to those who are in a crisis situation, or to those who are wanting to help those in such situations. We are so very thankful for those who have done all of these things for us, and more. We have truly been blessed by the love and support of so many, and hope to pass this along so that others may be blessed as well.