Research shows that 75% of parents who have a premature infant struggle with depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (Bryant, 1999). Some studies suggest that this number is as high as 97% (Holditch-Davis, et. al.). Additional research reveals that parents who participate in support group services are less likely to suffer from these disorders. Support services have also been proven to reduce the length of time an infant remains in the hospital (Mazurek Melnyk, et. al., 2006). While the high-tech nature of the NICU environment provides life-saving therapy for premature infants, support for families is often lacking. Holding Tiny Hands is committed to providing the support families so desperately need.
Tiny Treasures Gift Bags serve as Holding Tiny Hands’ introduction to parents. Bags contain items intended to provide comfort to parents and their little one(s) during their NICU stays. Bags also contain information on community resources available to help them care for their premature or chronically ill infant at home.
Meals for Moms & Dads are monthly meals provided in the hospital which allow parents a break from the stresses of the NICU for a good meal and fellowship with other parents, yet allow them to remain close to their baby. Former NICU parents, along with their NICU graduates, also partake in the meals to provide examples of encouragement, strength, and hope to current NICU families. Grandparents are encouraged to attend. Older former preemies return to provide childcare for younger graduates and siblings. This allows parents the ability to focus on themselves and each other.
During a time when parents are at their most vulnerable, parents assume their role on the sidelines in the NICU, lost in the myriad of tubes, wires, and alarms, and relying on others to keep their baby alive. Holding Tiny Hands is there to help parents find their way. Through our educational outreach, we provide an outlet for parents to share and learn from experts and one another. Education sessions for current and graduate parents provide a continuum of support that allows them the opportunity to gain the information needed to become the best advocates for their children. Our educational outreach is based on the following guiding principles of Holding Tiny Hands:
Holding Tiny Hands is made up of former preemie parents who know what it’s like to have a baby in the NICU where you are forced to redefine your role as a parent. Instead of protecting your unborn baby in the womb, you watch him fight for his life as he is hooked up to machines with countless tubes and wires coming from his tiny, alien-like body. Instead of feeding her, you watch her receive her nutrients through a tube. Instead of clothing him, you know that he is dressed only in a diaper should something happen that would require immediate access to him. Instead of keeping her from harm, you watch the nurse prick her heal for the eighth time that day to retrieve blood for tests. Instead of hearing him cry, you can only see him cry because of the ventilator tube down his throat. Instead of holding her, you provide what little comfort you can with your hands through the holes of the isolate. Only another parent who has walked through this storm can truly understand what it’s like for the parent currently facing these challenges. These are the parents of Holding Tiny Hands, providing encouragement, strength, and hope.
Holding Tiny Hands provides a continuum of support to parents of micro-preemies and chronically ill infants beginning in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), throughout discharge, and beyond.