In Crisis, Love is Enough
People who just know what to do in the center of crisis amaze me.They don’t wait. They don’t say, “Let me know what I can do.” They just do the right thing. How do they know what to do? Where did they learn that? I desperately want to be one of those people, but I’m not. Yet.
In January, crisis happened to me. My baby landed in the hospital for three weeks, and my toddler wasn’t allowed to visit. My spouse and I switched off between home and the hospital like ships passing in the night. My people swooped in and did all the right things to help that I didn’t even know I needed. I paid attention, and now I have some moves to steal. If you, like me, want to become one of those people who don’t ask permission but just go ahead and do the thing, feel free to steal one of these moves too! I think they translate to many intense life situations, both hard and joyful. We don’t have to do it all, just what sounds natural for our gifts.
Pray or Send Thoughts. They came flooding in from across the world via text, social media, cards and calls. It mattered to me. It made a difference to me. I could feel the energy being sent our way in my bones. It was overwhelming and totally necessary to keep me upright. You don’t need the perfect words or sentiment, just reach out.
Food. Everyone has to eat, especially moms who have to pump to keep milk supply up. Yet grocery shopping and cooking can seem very overwhelming and time consuming when you are trying to hold it together. There are amazing food services I never knew existed that kept us sustained and nourished. Here are some great tricks that my friends and family utilized:
-Cook a meal or organize a meal drop- The Food Tidings Website is nice.
-Instacart: our friends set us up with an account and pooled money for a Visa gift card. Instacart shops for you at places like Target and Cub and will deliver to your house or the hospital. Clutch.
-I had a few people commit to texting me while they were already grocery shopping for themselves. With meal drops, things like milk, peanut butter, eggs, bread and fruit can fall through the cracks. Having someone pick up one or two things without a special trip really keeps life moving.
-Show up unannounced at the hospital with a bag full of really yummy snacks.
-People dropped off things like doughnuts and chocolate chip cookies to remind us to splurge and be comforted by decadence.
-Send a fruit and cheese basket to the hospital.
-Find restaurants that deliver and have gift cards. One friend bought us $50 at Taco Cat in Midtown Market. They deliver to the hospital and are so good.
-Bite Squad gift cards work, too!
Show up. At some point, without even realizing it, I started to believe that the nurses had become my new social group. They are amazing people, some with whom I’d love to be friends, but it gets tiring to make a new best friend every 12 hour shift. I had old, worn in friends come to the hospital and sit with me. Their presence was so welcome and comfortable. No small talk needed. Cry or don’t cry. Laugh. Talk politics. They reminded me who I was, that the hospital room was just home temporarily, and that my friends were waiting for me on the other side.
People try to protect you from their normal lives, downplay things that are happening to them, withhold updates until later, but I lived for these. I loved feeling like a friend in a two-way relationship. I loved helping my sister unpack at her new house or dropping off a gift for a new baby because it made me feel like a functional person. I wanted to hear about normal things going on. Keep the person in the game unless it is clear he or she is in a moment of acute crisis, which will be clear.
Some people sat with the sick baby, others played with the healthy one, and still others sat with me. It was all a gift of presence.
Communicate. Be the person who updates a whole slew of people so that the inner circle doesn’t have to spend the day on the phone and social media. Things like Caring Bridge and Facebook can get word out quickly, which is great. It is still nice to have an inner circle willing to get into the day-to-day details to keep the larger village up to date.
Serve and Support Organizations. While I was at the hospital, a friend of mine just happened to be scheduled to serve a meal at Ronald McDonald House. This service is priceless to parents who have moved into the hospital. It was amazing to see a familiar face there, and every home cooked meal, served with such compassion, about brought me to my knees. My sister ate a meal there with me once, and casually donated at $20 bill on her way out the door. So cool. I also got a free meal every day in the cafeteria as a breastfeeding mom and free coffee in the Family Resource Center because of generous donations.
A few people each took a week and committed to shoveling our driveway and walk if and when it snowed. Offers to clean, run errands, babysit, do laundry were so amazing. These jobs aren’t glamorous, but it’s striking how a clean house feels when the world around you is a little shaky.
Don’t Shy Away From Money. Money was so far from our minds during our hospital stay, so we appreciated that others thought about it for us. Crisis is expensive. There is the parking ramp, gas money, quick meals on the go, and the dreaded medical bills. It is an afterthought in the moment, but it’s real. It can take courage to bring up money with people, but what a gift when people did. Several friends just sent us debit cards to use on anything from gas to a date night. And my siblings offered to organize a Go Fund Me or a Fundraising Even to help pay the medical bills.
Stick Around. It’s natural to ease off when good news starts happening, but that is when Dan and I needed help the most. We were less mobile and busier once my baby was less sedated and I was breastfeeding again. We got more emotional and fatigued when we were close to being finished at the hospital because we got so anxious to get our lives back again. And once we got home, we had to settle back into life without professional health care support. We had people hang back in the wings and then step in once the crisis time was past, and that was appreciated, too. A completely separate group organized a two meal a week drop for the month that we got back home to help us get our feet underneath us again. They also organized a beer and wine drop once a week, which was a fun way to tell us to celebrate, be social, and have a few fun date nights on the couch snuggling our babe and each other.
Attention to Detail. Then there are those people who will not let you travel through the PICU without a little style. We got a framed picture of the family for the hospital room and a dragonfly key chain that said “Just Breathe” to spruce up our hospital badges. My baby got new clothes and board books to remind us that he will go home and be healthy. I got bath salts and tea and lotion. These things are not essential, but they reminded us that we are human and the world is beautiful. That was a gift, too.
Over our unexpected hospital stay, we held it together because of our people and because of their generous, classy moves. Our community rose up around us and taught us a great deal about love in action. Thank you! I am forever grateful and changed!