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I am a Proud Parent of a Preemie!

Today’s post comes from preemie mom Samantha. She’s a stay-at-home mom to two children, Cooper and Evynne, and is currently finishing up her Master’s degree and looking forward to the next chapter in her journey. Cooper was born at 32 weeks and is now 12 years old. This is their family’s premature birth story:

When thinking of the birth of your child, the last thing one wants to dwell on is the traumatic part. However, the day my son was born was the scariest day of my life.

While pregnant with my son, I remember daydreaming about and longing to hear his first cry after he was born. I was not awake when he was born, so I never heard his first cry. I don’t even know if he let out a cry when he entered the world. I think he did and I have convinced myself that I heard it, but maybe he didn’t. It all happened very fast. I don’t remember much, but before being putting under by the anesthesiologist, I do remember thinking, ‘Great, I am not going to be able to keep this one either. Please let me be able to keep this one.’

The day my son, Cooper, was born was just like any other day. I went to work and left around 2:00 to head to the doctor’s office for my 32 week appointment. Beside some heartburn issues and a recent gestational diabetes diagnosis, my pregnancy had been uneventful. There was no reason to think my appointment would be anything other than routine. Not too far into my appointment, I was instructed to head straight to the hospital to be set up on a fetal heart monitor. I was concerned, but had no idea that after a brief check of my son’s heart rate upon arrival at the hospital, I would be rushed into surgery. My OB appointment was at 2:30 on one end of town, the hospital was at the other end of town. My son was born at 4:07. It was fast.

Cooper was born prematurely due to a heart condition. His heart rate was very low and irregular. I will never forget the nurse who said to me after he was born they did not expect to pull out a live baby. Those words will stick with me forever. Once I woke up, I was able to see him briefly before they whisked him away to the NICU at another hospital in town. He was able to come home after 28 days in the NICU. He was under the care of a cardiologist and on heart medication until he was almost 4. He has had no other complications as a result of his prematurity. I realize we are fortunate, for sure!

Even though Cooper was born 8 weeks prematurely, I have often felt that I was somehow “unqualified” to distinguish myself as a parent of a preemie. Cooper’s circumstances were certainly concerning but not dire. We didn’t come home with wires or around the clock monitors or a plethora of medications to figure out. I realize there is a huge difference in having a baby born 8 weeks prematurely and having a baby born 12 or 15 weeks prematurely. However, for 28 days I had to come home without my baby; I am undoubtedly a parent of a preemie.

While the day Cooper was born was the scariest day of my life, 28 days later when he graduated from the NICU and we were able to bring him home was a happy, glorious day. I am not sure why I denied myself the distinction of “Proud Parent of a Preemie.” Somewhere along the way, I must have received the message that Cooper’s birth was not severe or traumatic enough to be worthy of telling. After all, he is here and he is healthy and he is thriving. In the NICU, I saw babies struggling and fighting much harder than Coop and parents who were dealing with much bigger issues than we were. Why would our story matter when the parents next to us may never bring their baby home?

Being a parent of a preemie is not a distinction anyone seeks to claim. Our stories all differ, but each of our stories are unique and worthy of sharing. Our awesome, courageous preemies deserve the story of their birth to be honored. Whether our experience required a NICU stay of a week or several months, it all matters and qualifies a parent to be distinguished as a “Proud Parent of a Preemie”. Honor your story.

A Journey of Courage and Faith: Our Preemie Story

Today’s post comes from preemie mom Lauren, who is an English teacher, wife to Danny, and mother to preemie Christian Hodges. She and her family live in the suburbs of Pittsburgh and enjoy house projects, as well as outdoor activities. This is their story:

My husband Danny and I eagerly anticipated a weekend getaway from cold, grey Pittsburgh to visit family in warm, sunny Naples, Florida for President’s Day weekend in February. I was just about 26 weeks pregnant, and while a lavish “baby moon,” wasn’t in our budget, we thought we could take advantage of a weekend visiting family and enjoying the beach – a welcome change from our busy work schedules and cabin fever. My doctor had cleared me for travel up to 36 weeks, and my pregnancy was smooth sailing after a scare in the fall, so I was feeling very confident about this trip.

We had both taken Friday afternoon off of work and rushed to the airport to make our flight. We braved ice-cold wind in the parking lot of Pittsburgh International Airport and hustled to the terminal, barely making take-off. As the plane was in the air, we passed the time by diligently working on projects that we had to take care of for work while dreaming about our weekend getaway – the last time we would be able to spend some carefree time at the beach together before the arrival of our baby boy.

Continue reading “A Journey of Courage and Faith: Our Preemie Story”

Have You Heard About #NICUHour?

Today we’re sharing a Q&A with Lottie King, founder and head of Leo’s Neonatal in the UK. Leo’s Neonatal cares for families during premature and traumatic labour, in the neonatal unit and beyond. They also have support programs for medical staff in NICU and maternity! We had a chance to chat over email with Lottie about her story, the organization, and one of its online initiatives that is giving more parents a voice!

Can you tell us a little bit about Leo’s Neonatal?

Leo’s recognises that the neonatal journey isn’t just your time on the NICU, it’s actually pregnancy and birth, and childhood. It has been set up in memory of my little boy Leo, who saved not only my life, but his twin brother Oska’s too. This is his legacy. Our journey began when I was 21 weeks pregnant and actually hasn’t ended yet, Oska is now three and has complex respiratory problems, and grief when you lose a child doesn’t ever leave you.

It’s acknowledging that so many parents face traumatising pregnancies, births which result in nicu admissions and of course the lasting affects on the baby or babies health as well as the impact on parents and wider family. We don’t put a time limit on the support we give.

We work very closely with midwifery, obstetrics, neonates and paediatric professionals, as well as parents to ensure that we can offer well rounded support services.

What is #NICUhour? How did you come up with the idea?

Continue reading “Have You Heard About #NICUHour?”

We’ve Announced Its 2018 ‘Tinis for Preemies Honoree: Dr. Richard A. Polin

We’re excited to announce we’re honoring Dr. Richard A. Polin at our upcoming ‘Tinis for Preemies event on Wednesday, November 7th at The Upper Story by Charlie Palmer in New York City.

Dr. Polin is the William T. Speck Professor of Pediatrics at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and has been the Director of the Division of Neonatology at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital since 1998. He has received numerous awards and accolades for the skill and devotion he demonstrates as a practitioner and has advanced neonatal care immeasurably through his academic work, which includes over 200 original papers, 20 books, and more than 200 abstracts in the field of neonatology.

“Every year we recognize someone who has dedicated their life to improving outcomes for preemies and families,” said Graham’s Foundation president Nick Hall, who founded Graham’s Foundation with Jennifer Hall after they experienced the birth of twins at just 25 weeks before facing the trials of the neonatal intensive care unit and the loss of one child. “In doing so we aim to raise awareness of not only the impact of premature birth, but also the need to increase research into improving outcomes for future preemies and families. Supporting people like Dr. Polin is crucial to the continuing evolution of preemie care.”

An Associate Pediatrician at Children’s Hospital from 1975-1977, Dr. Polin was named Outstanding Pediatric Attending for 1976-1977. He won similar honors for 1978-79 and 1982-83

at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where he held the positions of Director of the Housestaff Training Program, Assistant and Associate Physician-in-Chief, Academic Coordinator of Pediatrics, and Acting Director, Neonatology. Temple University’s Medical School named Dr. Polin its outstanding alumnus in 1995. In 1998, Dr. Polin returned to NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital as the Director of the Division of Neonatology and Vice Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics.

In 2005, he received the Physician of the Year Award both from New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, Division of Nursing. In the spring of 2006, Dr. Polin received the National Neonatal Education Award from the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Section on Perinatal Pediatrics, and in 2017 he was inducted into the “Legends of Neonatology Hall of Fame.”

“We are proud to be able to honor Dr. Polin and share his work with a broader audience at this year’s ‘Tinis for Preemies,” Mr. Hall said. “What really sets him apart from other doctors and researchers is his focus on educating neonatology professionals so that innovations in the NICU can spread farther and more preemies can benefit. We are so grateful for this opportunity to say thank you to Dr. Polin on behalf of parents of preemies everywhere.”

To learn more about the Graham’s Foundation’s 2018 New York City ‘Tinis for Preemies evening, to buy tickets, and for sponsorship information, visit https://grahamsfoundation.org/events/tinis-preemies.

 

September Is NICU Awareness Month and We’re Celebrating with Shareables!

Did you know that September is Neonatal Intensive Care Awareness Month? Considering how many parents of preemies were not familiar with the NICU before premature birth made it a part of their lives, having a NICU Awareness Month is a really great idea. ​NICU Awareness Month is not only designed to honor families experiencing a stay in the neonatal intensive care unit and the health professionals who care for the them, but also to help more people understand what the NICU is and how a stay of any length in a neonatal intensive care unit can impact whole families.

To help you share NICU Awareness Month with your friends, family, and colleagues, we created these graphics for you to share on social media, on your blog or website, or in an email! We know from experience that it can be tough to talk about the neonatal intensive care unit and what goes on there, but we also think it’s important that more people learn about this special place where our special babies are cared for (and the special medical professionals who care for them). Hopefully these graphics will spark some conversations about premature birth and the effects of prematurity with the people in your life!

Want to do something for your NICU in honor of Neonatal Intensive Care Awareness Month? September 27th is NICU Giving Day and September 28th is NICU Staff Recognition Day, which are the perfect days to make a donation to your NICU or just bring the nurses and doctors who take such good care of the babies there a treat like coffee and doughnuts or a catered lunch.

A Letter From the Momma Who Knows

Today’s post comes from Nicole, who had to say goodbye to her preemie son, Kade, far too soon. The experience is one that has taught her a lot, and she has graciously been sharing her thoughts and feelings on our blog in case it can help new parents dealing with the loss of a preemie.

September 3rd was our original due date for our precious boy, Kade. That date seems like a landmine now as it gets closer. Unfortunately, Kade had to come too early and was born on April 17th. He had 99 beautiful minutes on earth before he passed away in my arms. He weighed 9.5 oz and was 9.5 inches long. This letter is to the mommas out there who are hurting. You’re not alone.

Dear Sweet Momma,

I am so incredibly sorry you are here. I’m sorry your heart is broken in a way that can never be fixed. I know your heart has a huge hole and is beating the best it can, but it will never be the same again. Your heart will always yearn for the baby that should be in your arms.

My heart hurts for you as you stare at the calendar, watching your should’ve been due date creeping closer and closer. My heart breaks for you because that due date will never come. My heart breaks for you because no one understands the pain that day will cause you, but you are a warrior. You are a fighter.

The reality of losing a baby is horrific. I know you have days where you just function… and that’s okay. I know you have days where you survive off dry shampoo, leggings, and junk for dinner… and that’s okay. I know you have days where you plaster a fake smile on your face… and that’s okay, too. You are doing the best you can.

On the days you simultaneously feel happy and heartbroken, just hang in there. Each baby announcement, gender reveal, maternity photo, or baby photo that pops up on social media will make your body ache a little bit. You wish your friends and family would understand that you aren’t mad at them, you aren’t jealous of them, but that you are just sad for you and sad for your baby who won’t get to experience life. You can’t help but wonder, “what if my baby’s story played out like that?”… it’s a weird feeling when someone else’s joy can bring you joy and pain, but you’ll get used to that feeling.

On the days where no one mentions your baby’s precious name, know that they are still real. They still matter. You are still their momma.

On the days when people ask the questions that feel like a piercing sword, “how many kids do you have?” or “so when are you going to try again?”, you’ll go into a panic because you won’t know how to respond. Remember to take a deep breath.

On the days where you feel like your friends or family have abandoned you, remember that they probably just don’t know how to be there for you. Pregnancy and infant loss is hard for others to understand unless they’ve been there.

On the day your co-worker says something insensitive to you about your attitude about work that day, remember that your co-worker has no idea that you are supposed to be at a doctor’s appointment that day for your baby that died. Ignore the comment and go on with your day. There’s no way for people to know that a certain day has a heartbreaking significance for you. You can do this, momma. Keep your chin up—even at work when you don’t feel like it.

On the day you have to decide whether or not you can go to that baby shower you were invited to, remember to protect your heart first. If you can’t do it, don’t be afraid to stay home that day. Your friend will understand.

Sweet momma, there is no pain like the pain of losing a child. There is no pain like the pain of having to box up your baby’s unused room. There is no pain like the pain of leaving the hospital after giving birth with empty arms. There is no pain like the pain you are experiencing. It gets easier as time passes, but that pain will never fully go away. That hole will always be there.

I am grieving with you – it wasn’t supposed to be this way and you are not forsaken.

Your baby will always be remembered.

Sincerely,
A Momma That Knows

You won’t believe how easy it is…

…to double your donation and help build a brighter future for preemie parents everywhere!

A longtime supporter of Graham’s Foundation has created a $50,000 dollar-for-dollar matching grant with a twist. Unlike most matches, we won’t see a dime unless we meet that goal. So we need help – lots of help.

The easiest way for you to get us to our goal besides donating? Is creating a fundraiser on Facebook that friends and family can contribute to right on the site.

Here’s what you do:

  • Click here to get to the Fundraisers page
  • Click Raise Money
  • Select Nonprofit/Charity & search for ‘Graham’s’
  • Select us, set a goal amount, and fill in your fundraiser details
  • Then click Create and spread the word far and wide!

support preemie parents

Together (and with a little help from social media) we know that we can meet this challenge match in 2018!

Remember, with every doubled dollar you help us raise, you’ll be supporting our preemie care package and preemie parent mentorship programs, and enhancements to the MyPreemie app, now and in the future. Your fundraiser will make a difference in the lives of new preemie parents, now more than ever!

Write for Us!

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