An insider tip on surviving the NICU: baking cookies

My first week home from the hospital was terrible. I was just starting to process Aidan’s death and we were trying to figure out what to do with the body. I was still weak from the infection and all the bed rest. And of course the boys were struggling just to hang on in the NICU. It was a very dark time that I think only preemie moms and dads can really understand.

After a week or so of spending all but a few hours a day at the hospital, I realized I needed a stress reliever. I was still too early post c-section to exercise and the idea of meditation still hadn’t hit me. So I did something that many people might think unexpected. I baked cookies.

First of all, raw cookie dough for me is like Welbutrin, Salmonella be damned (I chose that antidepressant because it increases dopamine, the feel good chemical. And really, all that buttery sugary goodness dissolving in your mouth? How primally sinful is that?).

Secondly, there is something therapeutic about baking. You have to pay attention to measuring and mixing, and maybe glance a few times at at the recipe. Because cookies only take 10 minutes or so you have to keep an eye on the stove and keep popping in batch after batch. So, it takes your mind off of things.

Finally, hospital staff LOVE getting baking, or really treats of any kind. Who appreciates it the most? Those on nights. So about once a week I brought in a batch of cookies, with a little note placed beside the plate in the break room, “From Oliver and Victor’s mom.” After a couple of weeks, the night staff would say, “Oh, you’re Oliver and Victor’s mom right? Thanks for the cookies!” More said “hi” and more glanced over at monitors and asked about the boys. Not only is giving a treat to the night staff a nice thing, it is a tiny form of subliminal advertising. If it didn’t work, no company wold ever put their brand name on a pen.

It pays to have everyone who is caring for your baby know you. It just does. It doesn’t mean that you get worse care if you don’t bring in treats, but we all remember when someone does something nice for us. I have years of experience working on nights in Labor and Delivery to know this is true. There is a look of joy on everyone’s face for just a second when a box of Krispy Kreme’s shows up at the nursing station.

You don’t have to bake, but I find it very therapeutic (and then there is the medicinal aspect of cookie dough). Once I realized the distraction was helpful, I started thinking about other forms of stress reduction. You can also make 4 dozen cookies for less than $5, so it’s pretty cost effective therapy. However, not everyone bakes and not everyone is in their own home when their baby is in the NICU, so a box of donut holes is golden too.

I’m not saying you have to get the people caring for your baby anything, and certainly not every night (I brought in something about once a week), but I know from years in the hospital that it makes people notice just a teeny little bit more. Just an insider tip.

Authors note: this blog is is NO WAY recommending that anyone eat raw cookie dough.

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One Response to An insider tip on surviving the NICU: baking cookies

  1. Katy says:

    I’m a baker too and I would make these lactation cookies (for myself) because they not only made me feel a little bit better for a moment as I ate them (raw & cooked), they were also helping me pump a little more milk for my baby girl :)
    http://www.design.noelove.com/cook/?p=136

    I also brought treats to my nurses because I loved them :)

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