In 2010 Scarlette was born fifteen and a half weeks premature. Her due date was in February but her birthday came in November and so we spent our very first Christmas as a family of three in the NICU, praying for a Christmas miracle.
On the day before Christmas Eve of that year, we were sitting next to her isolette at the Children’s Hospital when the nurse brought a woman to our bay. She introduced herself and told us that she has spent the past Christmas in the NICU with her own baby, who had been very sick at the time but was now home and healthy. She gave us a gift basket full of little treats and a letter detailing their own NICU journey with a note that they were praying for us.
Then she moved on to the next bay and did the same thing. She didn’t know us, she brought gifts for every family in the NICU that year. It touched me deeply and I knew that one day by the grace of God I would like to do the same.
That night we had one prayer answered when the insurance company agreed to transport Scarlette back to our home hospital post surgery so that we would much closer to her. We were overjoyed to arrive on a (rare for Georgia) white Christmas morning to see her alert and stable, after weeks of being in critical condition but I remember acutely how hard it was on us to spend that first Christmas in the hospital, still unsure of whether or not we would ever bring her home.
And now she’s a happy, healthy (totally rambunctious) three year old who helped me pack gifts for the families who are spending their Christmas in the NICU this year. I could never articulate how it made my heart feel, to hear her ask “Mommy? I help you? I help you make dese pwesents for da tiny babies?”
I sincerely hope that this small act this season brings the families we are doings this for a measure of comfort and hope to know that they are not alone.
Many of y’all have asked what we put in our NICU care package gift baskets and many of you donated items for us so I thought I would share a peek at them!
The care packages were made up of donations from both local companies, our family, and y’all. We are so thankful for each of you who helped us put together these gifts. We made up 20 care packages wrapped them up in gift boxes + gift bags because we thought it would be fun to have two little gifts to open 🙂 There are 17 babies in the unit now, so we made a few extra in case of new arrivals.
- Water bottles, donated by the electric company near the hospital
- Read aloud books donated by friends and family, most of which where donated by those of you who saw my request for books on my facebook page. I am so grateful. Each package included a copy of either Corduroy, The Velveteen Rabbit or The Little Engine That Could (I cried a bit as I wrapped them up, remembering reading each of them to Scarlette at some point during her NICU stay.)
- Minky blankets, handmade and donated by y’all. These blankets are meant for the mom to wear next to her chest and then leave with her baby each night, so that her scent on the blanket will be comforting to them. We did this every day for 156 days with Scarlette and I have her little minky blanket in her NICU box still. I can’t sew a bit so I am incredibly grateful to those of you who took the time to sew these in love for the families.
- Candy, donated by our local March Of Dimes organizer
- Starbucks gift cards, which Jeff and I decided to include because there is one within walking distance of the hospital and we appreciated the short walk to grab a good cup of coffee (NOT in the cafeteria) when we were there and so we thought the families might like that too
- Trail mix, tissues and hand sanitizer pens, which were donated by CVS Pharmacy. I met them this summer and when they asked to work together on a blog post about their Gold Emblem snack line and Total Home homecare line, I asked them if they would consider donating items from those lines to this project instead. I was so thrilled when they said yes and offered 20 of each item for our gift baskets! (I picked up the gift wrap at CVS as well, because I figured that since they were supporting our donation, I would support them with my business ;))
- A letter to the families, just letting them know why we were gifting these to them and how much we are thinking and praying for them this holiday season
We’ll be dropping these off a little bit later today so that the staff can pass them out to the families in the morning (in our home hospital, there are semi-private rooms rather than bays and the rules are strict during flu season so I won’t be able to hand them out myself) and just to visit with our favorite nurses and doctors for a bit, because we are always so thankful for the work that they do.
I feel as though I said “thankful” and “grateful” a lot in this post but honestly, I wish I could fully express my gratitude to each of you who has helped us put these gifts together.
Being able to do this, with your help, is the greatest gift that I could ask for and it means so much to me that we have been able to use what was a horrible, traumatic experience for our family for something that is good and embodies the true spirit of Christmas in sharing love with others. That is the most humbling of blessings.