Becoming a parent can be a big and scary adjustment even when labour and delivery go smoothly, and it’s made all the more difficult for parents of babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (or NICU). Having spent time there herself, Sarah Pulley is trying to make the lives of NICU parents just a little easier by pampering them at her hospital hair salon.
That’s right, Riley Children’s Health in Indiana has launched a “beauty bar” in one of the hospital’s two family rooms, offering hair services to the parents of NICU babies. Pulley, who owns the local salon Three Seventeen Hair Design, jumped at the opportunity to spearhead the initiative. Along with volunteering her own hairstyling skills, she donated a chair from her salon and got her distributor to donate more than $150 USD in hair care products.
“We are very familiar with those walls,” the 34-year-old told Today Parents when talking about her own experience at Riley, where her daughter Amelia was transferred after contracting a virus as a newborn—spending a total of four months between two different NICUs.
After becoming intimately aware of the stress and hardships that parents with NICU children face, Sarah became a volunteer in the hospital’s Ronald McDonald House Family Room last year, where she helped to open the Beauty Bar this past September.
Hospital family rooms are one of three programs that Ronald McDonald House Charities has in place to help families with sick children. They also provide mobile health services that visit communities directly, and housing facilities for families that are located near hospitals.
At Riley, the Beauty Bar gives parents of high-risk babies some well-deserved rest in a nap pod, a chance to decompress in a HydroMassage chair, and lots of fresh fruit and granola bars to snack on.
And a few times a month, Pulley gives a little extra self-care to postpartum moms and their partners. “We shampoo, blow dry and give scalp massages on the second Wednesday of each month,” she said, explaining that in the NICU “you completely lose all sense of yourself.” So having a little space where you can take care of yourself and even get a little pampered goes a long way.
“There’s something about the connection between moms and the power of touch,” Pulley added, explaining that her time at the Beauty Bar is just as special for her as it is for the parents she helps.
She also believes that sharing her story can give comfort to parents who are struggling. “There is hope in my story because my daughter is thriving,” she explained, offering other parents with kids in the NICU a few words of encouragement: “You’ve got this.”