Dear Family and friends,
I am so glad that you want to meet me. I know you are excited that I have arrived, and I am excited to meet you too, but please understand that because I was born early or that I need to stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, I have special medical needs at this time. I want share a few things with you before you visit with me in the hospital.
Please ask my parents when a good time would be to visit and be mindful of how long you stay. My NICU room is a warm, dark, and mostly quiet place. If I am asleep when you arrive, please allow me to keep sleeping. Because my sensory system is learning how to cope with my new world, I may get overstimulated easily. Too many visitors, too much light, noise, or visiting time can make me very tired, and I may not be able to do the things I need to do to get home. I must save my energy to eat, grow, and thrive. Too much stimulation may set me back. Please understand and respect my space if I need it.
My immune system isn’t completely developed yet; so please do not visit me if you are feeling sick. Even if you just have a cold, please stay at home. I know you really want to meet me, and I want to meet you too, but a simple common cold can make me very sick. When you do come to visit me, please wash your hands when you arrive. The NICU has plenty of hand sanitizer so don’t forget to take a few squirts as you enter my room. This is very important to me.
My respiratory system may also be vulnerable. So when you come to the NICU, please don’t wear any perfume or cologne. These scents are very strong and overpowering to me. If you smoke, I ask that you please refrain from smoking before you visit me. My lungs are very sensitive and cannot take even the smell of second-hand smoke.
If it is RSV or flu season, please understand that I may not be able to visit with you just yet. Respiratory syncytial virus or RSV is a respiratory virus that isn’t any worse than a common cold for you, but for preemies, the virus can be quite different and very scary. Babies that were born before 36 weeks gestation are at highest risk for complications like bronchiolitis, pneumonia, and other serious breathing problems that could make them very sick. Sometimes the side effects are so bad that they can be fatal for babies like me and the babies around me in the NICU. Preventing the spread of RSV can be very difficult. The virus is spread through physical contact or through the air if you sneeze or cough. RSV can live on hands for up to 6 hours and on surfaces for up to 12 hours. RSV is spread very easily, and especially by children, so please understand if the NICU or my parent’s limit visitors during this season.
I communicate with you in the only language I know, through my behavior. My parents have been taught how to read my special language, and they are very good at understanding my needs. They will also teach you these things so that you too can know what is important and best for me while I am in the NICU. You may not be able to hold me just yet. But don’t worry; if you speak to me softly, I will know you are here.
If I start to show signs that I need a break or that I need some quiet time, please give it to me. I need to be able to rest and recover so that I can get home with my family as soon as possible.
I need special care right now, which means I need you to take special precautions when you visit. Please be patient with me as I learn and grow in my new environment. Thank you for understanding and helping to keep me safe during this time. I am super excited that you want to meet me, and I cannot wait to be part of your world once I am bigger, stronger, and home with my family.
You can find a printable version of this letter here: http://bit.ly/1iqbVzX