Most Parents Don’t Plan to Become Part of the Prematurity Club

We’re excited to share this post written by our preemie parent mentor, Jaime. For more information about connecting with a preemie parent mentor, click here.

People tell you everything changes once you become a parent.  They say that life as you know it will never be the same and that the happiest days of your life are about to unfold.  The day your child(ren) are born is supposed to be the best day of your life, right?  What happens when that day is also one of the worst and scariest days of your life? I’ve lived this twice and if you’ve ever had a premature baby, you know exactly what I mean.  The feelings of joy mixed with fear of the unknown.  

I had my first child, a girl, in January 2012 at just shy of 27 weeks gestation.  In July 2015, I had another preemie –   A little boy born at 31 weeks. When my daughter was born it was an emergency c-section that happened within four hours of arriving at the hospital with pre-eclampsia and HELLP syndrome.  My son was born after nearly 4 weeks of hospital bedrest due to the same illness.  While the two experiences could not have been more different – they both resulted in a lengthy NICU stay.

Most of us don’t plan to be a part of the preemie parent club.  We don’t plan to start our parenthood journey with a 70+ or 90+ day stay in the NICU.  We don’t plan to miss the first diaper change or the first bath…yet that is the hand we were dealt.

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‘The People I Get to Meet Are My Favorite Part’ – A Q&A with a NICU Ambassador

Our very own Graham’s Foundation NICU Ambassador Erica Hall recently made the news for her work at the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) at Niswonger Children’s Hospital and we couldn’t be prouder. We connected with Erica to chat with her about her work as a NICU Ambassador and why it’s important to her to give back.

Graham’s Foundation NICU Ambassadors serve as a representative for us at both their local NICU and in the community, helping raise awareness for our programs and connecting with other preemie parents. Our Q&A with Erica begins below:

1. How did you become a NICU Ambassador and how long have you been a part of the team?

I became a NICU Ambassador after stumbling across the website. I was looking for resources to help me understand prematurity. I was already overwhelmed with having triplets and then premature on top was an overload. Once I found out about being an Ambassador I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

2. What drove you to become a NICU Ambassador? What did you want to accomplish?

I wanted to be able to provide support for preemie parents. I have been in their shoes and I wish so many times that I had some sort of support. I didn’t want other parents to feel the way that I did. I want others to know what Graham’s Foundation can do for them.

3. Do you feel you’ve accomplished the goals you original set for yourself in the role?

Not yet. Graham’s Foundation is something that I wish I could devote more time to. I want to be able to educate others that work in the NICU so that they can pass the information on to others. Until I can talk with every preemie parents that comes through the NICU my goals won’t be met. I want to do more and more.

4. What’s the best thing about being a NICU Ambassador?

The people that I get to meet are my favorite part. You meet the kindest people and they are grateful for any and all information that you can give them. They are so excited to know that they are not the only one that has been or is going through the things they are. Maybe it is just me but I feel that people look at me and say if she could remain positive so can I. I meet people whose are on a better, if their is such thing, NICU journey than I was and I can still relate to their emotions which help them. I meet people whose NICU journey is worse than mine and I can still relate to them too emotionally. We all are or have experienced the same emotions at some time and we are all grateful for someone to be able to relate and talk to us.

5. How would you like to see the program evolve in the future?

I would love for the program to be more known. Here in Johnson City nobody had even heard of Graham’s Foundation. I want others to know about it and what it can do. I want others to get involved and be excited like I am. I want others to want to be a part of this wonderful foundation. I hope that the program could evolve enough that a building or post had to be established for all the interest and people needing information.

6. What advice would you give to parents who are considering joining the program?

Do it and don’t think twice. Even after my NICU journey I still needed support and this program was a way for me to continue to get that support. It’s such a rewarding position and the satisfaction you get from helping other preemie families is tremendous. Then as part of the program you also get to celebrate the milestones of all the preemies you meet. It’s a celebration everyday. Your heart really can’t get any fuller.

Interested in becoming a Graham’s Foundation NICU Ambassador? Our NICU Ambassadors:

  • Establish and maintain a relationship between Graham’s Foundation and their local NICU
  • Deliver care packages and other support materials at specified times to their NICU throughout the year
  • Help celebrate Parents of Preemies Day at their local NICU and in their community
  • Help raise funds for Graham’s Foundation so we can continue and expand our program
  • Be available to provide local support to parents in your community, if requested

Learn more here!

Preemie Homecoming Comes with a Mixed Bag of Feelings

Parents hand holding preemie footTaking a preemie home after a NICU stay can be as terrifying as it is exciting. Homecoming is happy, of course, but many a preemie parent has burst into tears upon being informed that they would be going home as a family for the very first time. Immense joy is paired with worry, especially if your premature baby is coming home with monitors and medication.

Though the NICU is an inescapably stressful environment, it’s also a source of 24/7 support from medical professionals and experts in prematurity. Traveling back and forth to and from the NICU most days and learning to balance the need to be by your preemie’s side with your other responsibilities may have been intensely difficult. In some ways, making the transition home can be a relief.

But many parents of preemies find that the stress of the NICU is replaced by a new brand of stress – at least for a time. Moms and dads are suddenly not only thrown into the world of round the clock infant care, but may also be dealing with special monitoring equipment, oxygen, bottles and pumping paraphernalia, and the knowledge that it’s their job to recognize if something is “off” and to act accordingly. All this, while figuring out how to do the shopping, go back to work, coordinate medical appointments, and in many cases, schedule early intervention and other therapies.

transition home with preemie

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Announcing the Date of Upcoming NYC ‘Tinis for Preemies Gala!

At our latest ‘Tinis for Preemies event, we will recognize the contributions of honorees in the prematurity community!
We’re hosting our 2017 NYC ‘Tinis for Preemies evening on November 9 at The Glasshouses in the Chelsea Arts Tower in Manhattan! 

Our annual gala-style event draws corporate and individual supporters, specialists in the NICU field, preemie parents and others affected by premature birth who are driven to further the Graham’s Foundation mission of providing support, advocacy and research for premature babies and their families.

“These signature events are more than just fundraisers,” said Graham’s Foundation president Nick Hall, who founded the organization with Jennifer Hall after they experienced the birth of premature twins at just 25 weeks before facing the trials of the neonatal intensive care unit and the loss of one child.

“While attracting support for the mission is obviously a primary goal of our ‘Tinis for Preemies series, these special evenings also represent an opportunity for those whose lives have been touched by premature birth to connect with one another and to give back.”

Additionally, the ‘Tinis for Preemies gala provides a platform from which to debut each new year’s honorees. The HOPE and MIRACLES Awards honor and raise awareness of the work of medical professionals, researchers, philanthropists, and others making a difference in the lives of families with preemies.

This year’s MIRACLES Award Honoree is Heidelise Als, founder of the Newborn Individualized Developmental Care and Assessment Program, and the organization’s HOPE Award Honoree is NICU family-centered care champion Liza Gene Cooper. Their contributions will be showcased and celebrated at the event.

“Supporting change makers like our 2017 honorees is crucial to the evolution of preemie care, in and out of the NICU,” added Hall. “In recognizing the important work of honorees we aim to raise awareness of not only the impact of prematurity, but also the need to increase funding and research into improving outcomes for future preemies and families.”

To learn more about the 2017 Tinis for Preemies gala or for sponsorship information, visit

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