At Mass General, there were a lot of services available to us that I encourage NICU parents to take advantage of early on in their stay.
Social Security Benefits- The Social Worker in the NICU for us was a saint. She helped explain many of the outside services that would be available to us due to Grace’s very small size. Since Grace was under 1200 grams at birth (1200 grams is equal to 2 lbs. and 10 oz.) when she was born, she was eligible for Social Security (Supplemental Security Income). Due to our income as the parents, Grace was only eligible for a small amount each month (basically covered our parking!) but the real benefit here was that Grace was automatically put on Mass Health if she was accepted. The Social Worker gave us the paperwork. It was a ton of work to fill out but a few weeks after sending it in, we received Grace’s acceptance. Mass Health covers everything that our primary insurance does not, like co-pays, remainder of her formula cost, all prescriptions and her visiting nurse for weight checks. Grace’s entire 57-day hospital stay was also covered. For parents in this boat, it is totally worth it to talk to your Social Worker about this benefit and have him/her help you through this process. Grace is still currently on Mass Health and we have not paid a penny to date for her medical care. It has been such a great benefit to help us in such a difficult time.
Covered Parking- The Social Worker also helped us get our parking pass at MGH once the first thirty days lapsed with our children in the hospital. It was $10 per day so it added up over the course of time. The second month the twins were in the hospital, our parking was covered by the pass. I recommend asking about this at your hospital.
NICU Parents Group- The Social Worker also facilitated the NICU Parents Group. This group allowed any parents of infants in the NICU and Special Care Nursery to meet up twice a month to talk with other parents and eat dinner. It was completely voluntary but it honestly helped us to feel less alone in a place where you never wanted to ask others why they were there. We met people who had such success stories and met people who were having a much harder time than we were. It was nice to have other parents who were so supportive and understanding of what we were going though.
Lactation Consultants- The Lactation Consultants at MGH were wonderful. They worked with me often on making sure I had the appropriate pump (I rented a hospital grade one at home and had one in the twin’s room), was taking care of myself and was supplying enough for my babies. They helped me to make sure the flanges fit appropriately and that I was not becoming sore after pumping eight times per day. They were very supportive without being pushy, which I really appreciated after all we had been through.
Meal Services- As a pumping mother in the hospital, I could receive breakfast, lunch and dinner for free. The nurses were great about making sure I had a menu early in the day to put in my order. This was vital to keep up adequate nutrition for pumping. It also saved us a lot of money in running down to the hospital cafeteria and honestly, the food wasn’t half bad! I also had access to the refreshment station on the floor, which had ice, water, ginger ale and crackers during the off times during the day.
Discharge Services- Upon discharge from the hospital, MGH set up both children with their first pediatrician appointment, Early Intervention services and a visiting nurse. Early Intervention is a free service that works with both children to help them develop. This service still comes to our house every other week to see the children and will continue until they go to pre-school or test out of the program. Our visiting nurse still comes twice per month to weight Grace, who is still small for her age. This service is great because she also checks her lungs, heart rate and temperature to make sure everything seems clear. This has been a huge blessing during flu/RSV season for a check in every couple of weeks.
Talk to the Experts! - As a first-time mom, I took advantage of talking to all these nurses that had kids, especially ones with twins! They taught us so many helpful tricks in changing diapers, feeding the babies, taking their temperature, clothing them, giving medications and developing them. They also just taught us things that second time parents would totally know like only buy zipper onesies because you don’t want to do 12 snaps at 3 am and buy two bottle systems so you can figure out which one they like better! When we were discharged, we also had the number to the Special Care Nursery and we were told we could call anytime with questions. We also had the contact information for a few nurses that we were close with and I’ve reached out to them countless times for help! It’s such a relief to have other qualified people you can reach out to with a problem for support!
Mothers of Multiples Group- I did not join a group until the twins were a few months old and I really regret it. I was struggling so much with not having many mothers of multiples that I could turn to for help. The local group to my area has changed my life. They make the chaos seem totally normal and make me feel like we can survive any stage. I also love being able to support the newer moms with younger twins now that mine are approaching a year old. It has been a saving grace having these women to ask questions to and to support me. Also, they have great sales for all things baby twice a year in my area, which is a total money saver!
Ask the nurses at the hospital you are at about any services they offer and please take advantage! You are in a very hard position right now and these people can help make your life just a little bit easier!