As I've mentioned, Acorn spent 291 days in the NICU. While we were there, I read a lot of online things about ways to help friends/family in the NICU, usually with a list of helpful little things to get them through their stay
Side note: realistically, we got none of the typical list of things to help NICU parents - gift cards, disposable cameras, lotions, etc that are suggested - luckily for us, we live 5 miles from the hospital, but not going there every day sure did make a dent in our gas expenditures, and being able to pack in meals on days we stayed all day helped, but we were usually grabbing dinner from a restaurant on our way there.
We were the only Pagan family that we knew of in all the time we were in the NICU. Some of our NICU neighbors were very vociferous about their faith, including the parents who tried to convert nurses, and who wouldn't get out of the way for nurses to care for their little boy because they were too busy praying over him and laying on hands (I've recently learned that he came home with a trach - his early days were so very much like Acorn was at that size, and in the end, he's still much like Acorn, equipment and all, even down to sharing a nurse).
In the beginning, I was wary of taking things in that might raise eyebrows - not that I'm not fairly out about my beliefs, but that we were so dependent on these people for Acorn's care, I didn't want to inadvertently cause anyone's prejudices to impact him. After seeing the other families with their crosses on the wall and notes that Jesus loved their child...I slowly relaxed a little, and even got so far as discussing battery powered LED candles and stuffed animals to represent the quarters on the little shelf under Acorn's status board.
We know there are no Pagan chaplains at the hospital - several years ago, I was their only contact on file, and I'm sure they've long since thrown out my info. The couple of times the chaplains were there when I was there, they were very nice, but just not really very helpful - though the one that showed up in the trauma unit the morning BigOak got hit by the car knew Acorn immediately, and mentioned how cute he was, and how they all hoped he could go home soon.
There are a couple of organizations out there that make up care packages for NICU families - one that's pretty secular in their outlook, and several run by very devout Christians. We knew of none of these when we were in the NICU, and some of them we probably wouldn't have contacted. We truely felt that, even as long as we were there, it could have been far far worse for us - it could have been an hour drive. Acorn could have had some permanent disability or brain damage. We saw other children who didn't make it home at all....and in the grand scheme of things, a ventilator wasn't such a bad deal, you know?
We've been giving gift bags to our home NICU for the tiniest babies, like Acorn. We include a onesie or other baby clothing (sized for preemies 2 lbs and under), a hat, and usually a stuffed animal (Acorn's grandma has been making these for us). We've talked about doing blankies too, but just haven't had the time to find a reasonable source.
This weekend, however, I found a new Pagan Parenting website, paganparenting.org. One of their first outreach projects is Operation Brighid's Arms, which provides care packages to Pagan families with preemies and other ill infants in the NICU. This is fabulous, and I wish they'd been doing this sort of thing when we were in the NICU. We'll be putting together a box of donations for them, and I hope some of you will too.