I’ve been avoiding touching on COVID-19 at Breeching Baby. There’s enough out there right now without me adding to the vat.
But it was brought to my attention that a healthcare system near where I used to live just updated their visitor policy: no visitors to the NICU, including parents.
I’ll quote the policy update below for the day when this information is no longer available on the website because the pandemic has passed (hopefully very soon).
Beginning Tuesday, April 7 at 7 p.m., Carilion Children’s NICU will be closed to visitors, including parents. We are working to help parents maintain their connections with their children through video technology and to provide training for parents when their children are near discharge. In addition, exceptions will be made for children who are near death. This was a difficult decision to make, and we will welcome families back to the NICU as soon as the situation is safe for parents, their children and our caregivers.Click here to be taken to their website.
I understand the decision. NICUs are pretty tight spaces, and social distancing of at least six feet isn’t really achievable. There are babies in the NICU with underdeveloped or ill respiratory systems who need protection. These are drastic times and Carilion needs to protect these infants and the employees who care for them every day.
But knowing it’s the right decision for the safety of all involved does not touch the immense collateral damage.
I could never adequately describe the grief I feel for these parents.
They are now barred from being with their own children for the foreseeable future. They can’t hold them, help change their diaper, leave a small trinket with their scent beside their baby’s head, try to breastfeed, take pictures with their baby, or simply sit there staring at him or her.
Just to begin to paint a picture of all that these parents will never get back.
I also wonder for the babies who would be receiving Kangaroo Care (skin-to-skin), which is a known treatment to help their bodies learn to regulate their own functioning.
The mourning produced in us when we hear something like this makes us want to do something.
But what can any of us do besides play our part in fighting the pandemic by truly practicing social distancing?
There is literally nothing we can do to fix this situation.
But there is the power of prayer to do work in it.
Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)
God spun our entire universe into existence with nothing but his words. A Creator like that, who the Bible declares cares about us, is big enough to handle the many billions of outcries of suffering reaching his ears in today’s world.
So help these families by praying with me.
My heart breaks for these parents. I feel sickened learning that they can’t visit their NICU babies. Being a NICU mama, I know how hard it already is; and just imagining what it’s like now for these moms and dads is gut-wrenching to me.
This world is sick and needs its healer, God.
Make your presence intimately known in every thread of the NICU experience across the country and the world.
Protect these babies from COVID-19. Strengthen their little lungs, which you yourself designed and grew, for you created their inmost being; you knit them together in their mother’s wombs (Psalm 139:13). Bless their little bodies with health and development as every day brings them closer to passing their car seat tests or blood sugar tests or whatever threshold they’re waiting to cross.
Protect the nurses, doctors, cleaners, technicians, and anyone else who sets foot in the NICU. Protect them from COVID-19.
Protect them from being the recipients of anger formed by this new policy.
Bless the nurses as they care for all the babies exclusively for twelve long hours without the help of parents visiting their children. Keep their hands and minds sharp and without error. Keep them from exhaustion. Bless their families at home with protection from sickness.
Bless the technicians who set up the live stream of the babies for the parents. Bless this technology so it always works and parents can see their children in some way, which is still better than no way.
Comfort these parents, Lord.
Fill their hearts with your presence and peace as they’re left with an even bigger void than before ripped through them.
Assure them of your promises of better days to come—bless their futures and overflow their cups with more sweet memories of their children than they could ever have missed now. Speak tenderly to them and remind them that they will have many, many hours with their babies while they’re still soft and squishy and floppy and sleepy.
Bless the babies in need of skin-to-skin.
Bless the father holding his family together.
Bless the parents who still have yet to hold their baby for the first time.
Bless the father who was enjoying bottle-feeding his child.
Bless the recovering mom still admitted just down the hall, so close to her baby and yet still not allowed in the NICU.
Bless the 3 week or more postpartum mom in need of healthcare for postpartum depression and/or anxiety. Bless her with support and resources.
Save the life of the mom who’s now on the brink of suicide by this latest blow.
Bless the OB-GYNs and counselors caring for these moms. Bless the pharmacy workers filling prescriptions for antidepressants. Bless the partners and families trying to get her to eat and function normally and trying to comfort her.
Bless the pumping mom and multiply her supply. Provide ample space for her to store if she’s not allowed to deliver her milk.
Bless the market with abundance of ready-made formula.
Bless and give incredible speed to the WiFi of the parents and work miracles so that the live streams are always working at home.
Bless the big siblings who await meeting their little brother or sister for the first time.
Bless the grandparents whose hearts ache as they long to comfort their own babies in their grief, but who can’t visit and can’t hug them.
Bless the work of volunteers who make gifts for NICU families and show them ways they can still support them.
Bless the hospital administrators who had to make this incredibly difficult decision. Protect them from the anger of hurting families.
Help everyone to be patient and understanding as we navigate an unprecedented and drastic time demanding drastic measures.
Remind parents that you, too, know the grief of being parted from your child, as your son Jesus died on the cross and faced off with death itself. That you are relatable and that you love them and want to draw them close to you.
Father, you are the God who built an entire nation out of a broken family (Genesis). Be the pillar of stability and the reminder to these parents that all is not lost. Show them how you will build their families and cultivate unshakable bonds of relationship, even though it looks different right now and even though they’re missing so much.
Show them a glimpse of brighter days when they will hold their infant close to their beating hearts, look into their little eyes, and breathe in their newborn smell.
In the months and years to come, stay close to them and guide them through processing the trauma of this time. Equip counselors and friends to hold hands with these parents through every future step when the pandemic is over, but the memories and lack thereof linger on.
But today, give them the same hope that all NICU parents cling to, that someday soon they will finally get to take their baby home.
Remind them, and all of us, that it won’t be like this forever.