Just "getting the words out" was hard for Gabrielle Felman while trying to talk to her daughter Marin, who was born premature and spent five weeks in the neonatal instensive care unit (NICU) at Lenox Hill Hospital.
"It's so hard," she said of having a child in the NICU. "You're emotional and you feel like crying all the time and you want to talk to your baby, but it's sometimes really hard to get the words out. So, I just started bringing books here and I would read to her, and I think that helped me start a conversation."
Gabrielle, an early childhood special education teacher, shared her experience reading to Marin with another NICU mother, Julie Rudolph. They became friends and, after both of their children "graduated" from the NICU, wanted to give back. In early 2017 they introduced the NICU Book Drive, a donations-based book cart that invites parents to read to their babies.
“As special education teachers, we both know the importance of reading to your child for their brain development and also as just a special way to connect with your babies while in the NICU,” Julie said.
Patricia Quinn, nurse manager of the NICU, sees many parents in the NICU struggling to find ways to bond with their baby. The NICU Book Drive, she says, helps parents do just that.
“The books have been so amazing for us because parents can have that normal interaction with their baby... in an abnormal environment," she said.
In addition to the Book Drive, Julie and Gabby now also help lead the NICU support group.
“Everything that they’re doing for our NICU is really amazing, Patricia said. "But, more than what they’re doing, I think, is what they have to offer as graduates. They have made themselves completely available to us and to our NICU, which has been amazing for our patients.”
To learn more about neonatal services at Lenox Hill Hospital, call (212) 434-2136.