Monday, February 23, 2015

A Dad's Role in the NICU

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Dads have such an important role in the NICU, but at times it can seem as if your role is secondary, as everyone around focuses on Mom and her recovery, needs, and emotions. Don't let this discourage you. Your role and support is vital to your child's wellbeing.

You may find yourself feeling helpless and at a loss as to what to do.  Strong and often contradictory emotions, such as anger and sadness, guilt and grief, helplessness and hope may be swirling through your head throughout the day. Stop and take a moment to acknowledge what you are feeling and just how difficult your situation is. Here are a couple great tips of how to take care of yourself, spouse or partner and your baby.

Helping Yourself 

See if your NICU has a support group and consider attending. Most people you know have never experienced the NICU and they just can't relate to everything you are going through. Talking with others who are in the same situation as you can be very helpful. Be open and honest about your concerns and fears. If a support group isn't available, seek out a trusted friend or family member you can talk to. Exercise can be a good way to release some tension and clear your head. Don’t forget to get enough sleep, and eat as well. Your health is important too.

Helping your Baby  

Looking at your new baby hooked up to machines, looking so small and frail… this is not what you imagined fatherhood to be like. You may be extremely nervous about holding your baby, and participating in his/her care for fear of doing something wrong. Pay close attention to what the nurses are doing and ask lots of questions so you can feel confident about helping. They know that all parents are nervous about what to do, so no question will surprise them. Take notes if you need to or have them stay right there with you the first few times until you feel comfortable. The most    important thing is not to let these opportunities pass you by. You will want to experience and remember these special moments.

Helping your Spouse or Partner

You may find yourself wondering just how Mom is able to handle everything--and the secret is, she can't without a lot of help. Make sure you are helping take care of her so she is able to focus on your child as well. Some things that may help:

  • If she is pumping breast milk for your baby, be supportive.  Wash the pumping supplies and help label and store the milk .  
  •  Keep track of the insurance information. Help make some of the necessary phone calls to insurance companies, specialists, etc. 
  • Make sure the house, diaper bag and her purse or bag is stocked with some quick, healthy snacks like granola bars, fruit, and nuts.  Eating on the run will be commonplace now, so having some healthy options close at hand is important.  
  • Take over some of the household chores or enlist help to get them done. Laundry, cleaning, running errands—these still need to be done.  By taking some of these items of her to-do list, you ease her stress and worry immensely. 

Having a child in the NICU may be the hardest thing you ever face in your life, so now is not the time to play the hero and pretend you can do it all. Focus on what you can do to help your baby, and your spouse or partner and most importantly, yourself.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

What To Expect, When You're Expecting a NICU Stay

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The birth of your baby is a joyous occasion. However, the experience of being in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) can be very overwhelming. Concern and fear may take over the excitement surrounding the birth as you are now faced with a variety of different emotions. The range of emotions you are feeling are perfectly normal. Knowing what to expect can help you manage those emotions. Here are a couple key points you should know for your stay.

Know the Rules.
Each NICU is different; all rules will vary depending on the hospital’s policy and the severity of your child’s condition. Most NICU’s will hand out guidelines, but if not, make sure you check on a few things the first day. For example: What are visiting hours? How many people are allowed at your child’s side at a time? Are physical interactions such as bathing, diapering, feeding, and holding your child, limited? Can you bring items in from home such as a book to read to your child, or stuffed animals and pictures to leave in the isolette? What phone number can you use to check on your child?

Know the Routine.
A NICU has a specific routine in place. By knowing the routine you can be better prepared as to what to expect during your stay. Find out how long the shifts are, and what time shift change takes place. Ask what time rounds are made, and if you are allowed to be there during these times.

Ask Questions. Take Notes. 
No question is too small. This is your child, and staying informed is important. If no one is around, write down questions when they come up, to ask later. If you are even the slightest bit concerned about your child’s condition, ask questions! The nurses and doctors are there to help you understand and make informed decisions on your child’s care. To help you remember the answers to these questions, and jot down new ones, keep a journal and take notes. It can be a great tool to refer back to later on.

Know Your Nurses.
Every nurse is different with a unique personality, routine, and opinion. There may be times you disagree with an opinion or action. If you are uncomfortable with or not ‘seeing eye to eye’ with a nurse, take your concerns to another staff member that you do feel comfortable with. Remember, this is your child and you must be able to trust whoever is taking care of him/her. If you are unhappy at any time with the care of your child, take your concerns to the head nurse, social worker, or leading neonatologist.

Make Sure Your Expectations are Understood.
Most parents have a preference on the parenting style and care that they chose for their child. Breastfeeding vs. Bottle, the use of pacifiers, religious considerations, etc… are all topics that should be discussed. Keep an open mind, not every request may be able to be accommodated based on your child’s condition. However, by informing the staff of your wishes, they can help you make the best decisions for your child.

Above all know that you are not alone. Connect with other parents who have been or who have a critically ill child like yours. No one understands the journey unless they have been there.

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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Month of Love - Project Division Hailey's Hope Fundraiser

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Month of Love
A Fundraiser by Project Division Hailey's Hope

Please join Hailey's Hope for its month of love fundraiser! Who do you love?! We love NICU babies and families, and we bet you do too! For the month of February, Hailey's Hope will be holding an online fundraiser asking you to show your love to the babies and families who need it most - those in the NICU - by helping to raise $500 (or more!). 100% of the money raised during this campaign will go directly to local NICU families by allowing us to purchase items to fill our long term NICU care packages. Giving is easy (and tax deductible!). Donations can be made via cash, check, or PayPal. To donate or for questions, please email To check out our progress visit our fundraising page!

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Project Sweet Peas' 2014 Year in Review

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2014 was an incredible year for Project Sweet Peas! Thanks to the helping hands and hearts of hundreds, we were able to accomplish so much!

We first wanted to extend our appreciation to our Project Coordinators, Board of Directors, Project Volunteers, and many more who work tirelessly day to day to further the mission of Project Sweet Peas. Without their efforts, thousands of NICU families would not have received the support they so desperately needed. Without their passion, hundreds of families faced with the unimaginable experience of saying goodbye to their baby, would not have received comfort during some of the darkest of days.

In 2014 we delivered 1,364 NICU Care Packages, 520 Holiday Care Packages, and over 12,000 misc. items to families experiencing a stay in the neonatal intensive care unit. In addition to this support, we launched the first ever Neonatal Intensive Care Awareness (NICA) Month thanks to our sponsors and other supporters. This special month honored the experience of NICU families and those who are dedicated to caring for them. Through this initiative we began accepting gifts to build a NICU Family Assistance Fund to benefit NICU families nationally who are enduring financial hardship. We hope to launch this program in Summer 2015. To learn more about this initiative and to make a gift, please visit the nicuawareness website:

For families experiencing the loss of their baby, we provided over 250 memory boxes and hosted Pregnancy and Infant Loss Vigils that honored 1,038 precious babies. Through these programs we fostered both healing and remembrance for the families and made a small difference in their lives.

To date, we have provided 8,395 Care Packages, 1,380 Memory Boxes, 2,151 Holiday Packages, and over 26,504 items!

As we welcome the new year, we wish to thank all of you for being an integral part of our organization. Your support is transformative in that it provides us with the means and inspiration to keep doing the work we do. We look forward to seeing what 2015 brings for all of us.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Welcome, Justice's Rose!

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We are pleased to welcome one of our newest divisions, Justice's Rose to the Project Sweet Peas team! Justice's Rose will be directed by Project Coordinator Megan Knebel and her husband Chad in honor of their daughter.
My husband and I started our local project Justice's Rose after our daughter was stillborn. As a young couple we had no idea how to handle this loss and had no guidance what so ever.  We were unaware of the many services available to families that had lost children. 

When we discovered Project Sweet Peas we knew their resources could help us touch many more families. Because of our loss we gained knowledge and feel it is our duty to share it with others.  A loss of any kind is difficult, but the loss of a child can be debilitating and if we can help anyone through this difficult time we feel a sense of honor that our loss can bring a certain amount of peace to others.
To learn more about Justice's Rose, please visit our website and follow them on Facebook

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Welcome, Zachary's Rainbows!

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We are pleased to welcome one of our newest divisions, Zachary's Rainbows! Zachary's Rainbows will be serving NICU families in the San Antonio, TX area.

Mica, Project Coordinator for Zachary's Rainbows, tells their story:

It all started with Clara’s son Zachary. He was born in 2012 with multiple special needs and spent 50 days in the NICU. This experience changed her and her husband’s lives and opened a door to a world that they didn't know was there. They received overwhelming support from family and friends, and they learned very quickly that not everybody was as fortunate and that there was a lot of healing in giving back.  Zachary lived two months and two days.  

After his passing, Clara felt that his mission had just started and it was up to her to keep it alive.  Thanks to Zachary, Clara was able to see families in need of care and comfort during the emotional times.   As the proud mama of 4: a 7 year old son and 3 angel babies, I felt a pull to help the cause any way I could.  We started our care project to provide baskets full of comfort and helpful items for these families. 

Clara recently joined the NICU Family Council for North Central Baptist Hospital (where all our donations go).  Our goal has been to stay in contact with them and continue learning about the needs of NICU families. We have the will and the team and the desire to do more; to grow bigger and steady each year.

I now have a beautiful set of twin baby girls and my drive is even stronger to help these families. We are so honored to be part of the Project Sweet Peas organization and to get a chance to be even a bigger impact on the families in need. This will be our fourth year providing baskets and I know it is going to be the best year yet!
To learn more about Zachary's Rainbows, please visit our website.
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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Volunteer for Project Sweet Peas

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Below you will find current volunteer listings for Project Sweet Peas.

Project Coordinator
Establish your own Project Division
We are in search of dedicated, enthusiastic volunteers who are interested in providing support to their local community by establishing a Project Sweet Peas division. As a Project Coordinator you will create your own division and provide services that promote the well-being of families experiencing a NICU stay and/or those experiencing loss. Starting a Project Division takes hard work and complete dedication by a Project's coordinator. A Project Coordinator is solely responsible for running a project. Coordinators create their own divisions name, work closely with a hospital(s) of their choosing, control and maintain their own funds, keep track of all expenses, donations and inventory, and report quarterly to the Board of Directors by filing accounting forms. Project Coordinators' must follow strict guidelines and codes of conduct.

 Please visit our application to learn more about this position:

Assistant Treasurer
Project Sweet Peas Board of Director Member
The assistant treasurer is responsible for assisting the Treasurer with the management and reporting of an Project Sweet Pea's finances. You must be able to fulfill the following responsibilities:
  • Assist the Treasurer with maintaining financial workbooks and updates as necessary
  • Assist Project Coordinators with financial reports for grants
  • Assist to develop and implement financial procedures and systems
  • Assist in collecting and auditing quarterly reports that are submitted by project coordinators
  • Assist in responding to emails regarding financial and workbook questions
  • Reports to board on key financial events, concerns and assessment of fiscal health
This position requires a minimum time commitment of 10 hours per week

 Please visit our application to learn more about this position:

Writing Volunteer
We are actively seeking motivated Writing Volunteers to assist Project Sweet Peas! Volunteers will be actively involved in the creation and development of informational brochures, booklets, blog articles, and a monthly newsletter.

This position requires a minimum time commitment of 5 hours per month

 Please visit our application to learn more about this position:

Grant Writer/Researcher
Do you have experience writing or researching grants? Project Sweet Peas needs your help! We are currently seeking individuals with experience to join our Grant Writing Committee. Your responsibilities as a Grant Writing Volunteer will include researching, identifying and responding to grant opportunities that meet the needs of Project Sweet Peas.

This position requires a minimum time commitment of 5 hours per month

 Please visit our application to learn more about this position:

Promotional Social Media Volunteer
Are you experienced in social media development and engagement? Are you interested in giving back to the NICU community? We are looking for a volunteer to assist with our social media outlets. Help us grow our community and support more families in the process.

Please visit our application to learn more about this position:

Health Advisory Committee Member
In an effort to provide accurate and updated materials and services to the families that we serve, we are currently in the process of establishing a Health Advisory Committee of active health professionals. Those that serve on the committee will assist Project Sweet Peas by providing his or her professional opinion to our literature and services.

Responsibility Description - "As a committee member, you might be involved in reviewing current and upcoming programs, editing and providing information to brochures and assisting Project Sweet Peas in efforts to connect with others in your professional community. Committee members will be contacted on an individual basis when need arises. This position does not have a minimum yearly time commitment and all committee members reserve the right to decline to participate in a project. As a health adviser your information and credentials will be made available to interested parties including parents, and professionals employed at the facilities we serve."

If you are an active health professional that is interested in joining our committee, please send correspondence to Sarah King at

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