Now Reading
When Friends Or Family Are Displaced: How To Help

When Friends Or Family Are Displaced: How To Help

Jessica Butler
Petr Vaclavek/shutterstock.com

Adopting a child from a different state often requires at least one parent to remain in the baby’s birth state for an extended period of time. And if your baby is born on a weekend, when court is not is session, your stay can last even longer.

When my son Levon was born, I was standing alone in the dark next to our outdoor grill, the phone pressed against my ear. His grandmother was on the other end, her voice steady and calm.

“His vitals are good.”

“His,” I asked? Is it a boy?”

“Yes, it’s a boy.”

His gender reveal. A private event attended by only the two of us.

Levon’s birth mother went into labor unexpectedly, 10 weeks before he was due. My husband and I took the first available flight to Phoenix, where I spent the next 21 days living in the NICU with our 2 lbs 7oz boy.

Even without a NICU stay, adopting a child from a different state often requires at least one parent to remain in the baby’s birth state for an extended period of time. And if your baby is born on a weekend, when court is not is session, your stay can last even longer. Having a newborn is overwhelming, under the best of circumstances. But having a newborn + the adoption process + navigating both in an unfamiliar city = mind-bending.

If you haven’t experienced displacement yourself, it’s hard to know how to help those who are going through it. During the recent Woolsey fire in Southern California, we once again found ourselves living in another city, our daily routine obliterated. So many friends reached out, wanting to help, but unsure of how to do so. After reflecting on both events, I compiled a list of ways to help families who are experiencing displacement, due to adoption or any other life-changing event.

SEND TEXTS THAT DON’T REQUIRE A RESPONSE

I appreciated every single message I received during both the fire and Levon’s adoption, but it was impossible for me to respond to all 150 of them. My best piece of advice is to send texts that don’t require a response.

“Thinking of you. Call or text if you need anything.”

or

“Let us know if there is anything we can do. If you need us to send you anything.”

The above are examples of much-appreciated texts that let the person know you are there for them, but don’t require them to respond. Nothing is worse than receiving the dreaded “How are you?” message.

When Levon was born, I was immediately, madly in love. And terrified. Would he live? Would he thrive? Were we capable of caring for a child who may be special needs due to his prematurity? Even more so, would his birthmother change her mind and choose to parent him? I was living in a hospital, in an unfamiliar city, falling for a baby that my not even be mine.

“How are you?”

I had no words.

“Let us know if there is anything we can do. If you need us to send you anything.”

When I got that text, I knew just what to say. “I’m supposed to read to him. They said it was good for him to hear my voice. Can you send me books?”

AMAZON GIFT CARDS

We all forget things when we pack to travel, and during the excitement of packing to meet your baby for the first time, you forget even more. Like chargers, for your phone, your husband’s razor, your older child’s iPad. Amazon gifts cards are always appreciated.

GIFTS FOR CHILDREN

Speaking of older children, if the adoptive family is traveling with siblings, send games and activities that can be easily transported and played in a hotel or hospital. This goes without saying, but don’t send anything that makes noise. And if a game requires batteries, be sure to include them, along with extras.

AUDIBLE.COM GIFT CARDS

During Levon’s NICU stay, I spent between 12 and 15 hours a day sitting next to his incubator. During his first two weeks, I was only able to hold him twice a day for 30 minutes at a time, due to jaundice and concerns of over-stimulation. That left a lot of hours for me to quietly entertain myself. Even if you’re not confined to the NICU, adoptive parents have a lot of time to pass in hospitals and hotels. I kept myself sane by listening to audiobooks and podcasts.

A LIST OF LOCAL RESTAURANTS

Eating out becomes a necessity when you’re living in a hotel. I was so overwhelmed with having a newborn and navigating the adoption process that I didn’t have the mental capacity to search Yelp for nearby, healthy restaurants. I grabbed food from the hotel bar or hospital cafeteria until the NICU nurses eventually recommended their local favorites for me to try.

The kindest, most helpful thing I could have received during that time would have been an email with a list of nearby restaurants to grab a bite.

DAY SPA GIFT CERTIFICATES

Parents were not allowed in the NICU during shift changes, so twice a day, for one hour, I had to leave my son’s bedside. Usually, I went to the cafeteria to grab something to eat, but one afternoon, I left the hospital and got a manicure. It was such a nice break from the NICU scene.

MOVIE THEATER GIFT CERTIFICATES

The adoption process is both overwhelming joyful and overwhelmingly stressful. There are moments/hours/days of sitting and waiting. Times when you can’t be in the hospital due to visiting hours or shift changes or because you’ve been in the hospital for 15 hours a day, 21 days in a row and you need a distraction.

After the fire, one of my best friends emailed us a gift certificate to a local movie theater, and the distraction is exactly what we needed. There were times during Levon’s NICU stay when a movie would have been a welcome diversion, but it never occurred to me. The key to helping a friend who is displaced is to give them something they don’t even realize they need.

If you have other suggestions to share, we’d love to hear them. Leave a comment below.
View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

© 2019 Raise Magazine. All Rights Reserved.