My America: Christmas Cheer In The NICU

My America: Christmas Cheer In The NICU

My America: Christmas Cheer In The NICU

This week in our ongoing My America weekend series, we are thinking about the smallest and most fragile babies in the NICU, who can’t be home for Christmas this year.

Instead of being posed with stockings, or wearing incredibly cute outfits, or being passed around by loving relatives like the Christmas turkey at the dinner table, these preemies will be spending their first Christmas in the hospital, some of them fighting to live, thrive, and grow to see the New Year.

And standing guard over them, like guardian angels giving comfort and help to both parent and child, are the nurses of the NICU. Once NICU nurse in South Carolina is bringing a special kind of Christmas cheer to her tiny patients – by knitting them “ugly” Christmas sweaters.

Shannon Younginer said Saturday on “Fox & Friends: Weekend” that she feels what she’s doing at Summerville Medical Center is “important.”

“Having a baby in the NICU can be very, very, scary for parents. I mean, I would be scared and I’m a nurse,” she said.”

“So … coming in and seeing your baby dressed in the ‘ugly’ Christmas sweater, or even just having a cute little name tag on their bed, it means a lot. Parents really appreciate it.”

Other hospitals, and incredibly skilled and crafty nurses, have been doing similar things for years.
https://twitter.com/FOX46News/status/1077574168038854656
While I was not a preemie mom myself, I have known many moms who spent their first Christmas with their baby in a NICU. The NICU is a universe unto itself, requiring a special kind of person to work in there and care for the tiniest humans among us. To have nurses who give dedicated and unflagging care, and who realize that their little patients are all individuals with names and futures who deserve a little Christmas magic of their own, is a remarkable and blessed thing. Even in times of great stress, little moments of joy and the building of positive memories can be found.

And some little ones will still get their first visit with Santa Claus this Christmas.

From Michigan to California to Kentucky and in many other NICUs across the country, Santa Claus is coming to town. And while he can’t grant the gift that all NICU parents want – to go home with a healthy baby – building these extraordinarily happy moments into a period of uncertainty and worry is a gift in itself.

Merry Christmas to all the little ones in NICUs everywhere, and may you and your parents be of good cheer in this season. You are not forgotten. And to the doctors and nurses, many of whom will give up Christmas Eve or Day with their own families in order to watch over their tiny patients – thank you, a million times over. You embody both the spirit of Christmas and the heart of America.

Featured image via Pixabay, cropped, Pixabay license

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7 Comments
  • Patti says:

    You are so right. My daughter was born at 24 weeks, and I can tell you that every bit of kindness – from a cute hat to a tiny tee to personalized ornaments – made such a difference to me. Every day of sitting in the NICU was frightening. The baby’s condition can change in a few minutes; aspiration of milk, a sudden infection, a brain bleed…it’s a never-ending list. And the doctors must give parents the worst-case scenario prognosis. It’s terrifying to be told that your baby will likely have lifelong issues ranging from being mentally-impaired, to blindness, deafness, mobility issues..the list goes on and on.

    Now our happy, healthy 25 year old daughter now lives an active and athletic life. I only wish there were some way to communicate that sense of peace to new preemie parents. Things can go wrong, certainly. But things can also go so right.

  • My friend Juan just asked for prayer for his Granddaughter Sofia who is in NICU today.
    Would you join us?

  • Scott says:

    Thank you for your post Deana, and thank you for bringing attention to these beautiful babies. 22 years ago, our son was 12 days old, after being born at less than 2 pounds, at 27 1/2 weeks. By the time we got to Christmas, the Dr’s still would not give us odds on his survival. His first Santa hat was one that i’d cut off a small stuffed mouse, and for size comparison, it fit perfectly on a coke can (it was the only one I could find that would fit). Like Patti says above, we got the absolute worst case scenario presented to us, and through the grace of God, very little of it came to pass. Today he is a healthy young man, who participates in and volunteers at rodeos in our county.
    Without the work of the doctors and nurses you mention, none of this would be possible. Our greatest thanks to those whos hearts are big enough to do such work!
    Merry Christmas to all!

  • Mary Anne Borg says:

    I heartily agree with your last paragraph. God bless everyone.

  • Lisa Carr says:

    Just about fourteen years ago, after a bout with HELLP Syndrome, our little family spent Christmas in the NICU with our 3-pound baby boy who came into this world kicking and screaming at 33 weeks on Christmas Day. When I was finally allowed to get out of bed (they had me on watch for 24 hours because I was at risk for seizures), he was wearing nothing but a diaper and the cutest little Santa hat knit by a volunteer. I still have that hat and put it on his big, goofy head every year and he obliges. The nurses fought to take care of the healthy baby in Pod C. That was our son. Some of the others and their parents were not so lucky and did not get the news we did: that he screamed for two hours when they assessed and they were not at all worried about his lungs and that most likely, he will only need to stay in the hospital to feed and grow before we could take him home. We were able to take him out and hold him and kangaroo him. He came home with us 3 weeks later. That same day, a family who delivered a little girl at 26 weeks, was still there. Her dad was overjoyed because the NICU staff finally allowed them to reach into her isolette and touch her hand. Despite the fight this little girl had ahead of her, her father was so positive, so thankful for that one touch. I’ll never forget that.

    • Scott says:

      That’s awesome Lisa. If a person could spend even one day in a NICU and not tear up at the stories of tragedy and hope that occur there on a regular basis, then they truly are sociopaths. Friendships we forged with other parents going through similar circumstances are still with us over two decades later.

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