The Gift of Life loves to share stories from our very own families that we support because they are real and heartfelt. Today’s story explores what it is like to be a father of twin premature girls, from a mother’s eyes. We are so blessed to have Jen Labriola bring you this story today. Jen is the mother of twin preemie girls. She also dedicates her time to doing graphic work for the Gift of Life. Thank you Jen for all you do!
I have to hold back a laugh as I watch my husband fumble with putting a sandal on our squirming 1-year-old daughter. He’s confused by the straps, frustrated by a moving child, but does it because she wants her sandals on even though she’s still learning to walk. Of course, you have to do what she wants, she’s just too darn cute to say no to. I offer to take over so he can eat dinner since he’d let me eat in peace, away from our twin daughters. He happily obliges and I easily slide on her sandal with a laugh.
My husband and I have always been a team. We battled infertility, we struggled with a difficult pregnancy and then were warriors dealing with our twin girls in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Now nearly two years later, we’re still a team when it comes to parenting.
When I think of Father’s Day, I go back to our days in the NICU as our girls spent three months there, this part of our life is very much ingrained in us. The seriousness of these months left an unforgettable stamp on our life. I think for us moms, it’s a bit different since we carried our babies inside, thus we have a more intimate relationship with our children. Fathers, on the other hand, seemingly get tossed into reality once the baby (or babies) are born.
I’ll never forget my husband’s face during my C-section, it pretty much was shock, excitement, worry and “oh crap.” We saw our girls, and from then on were called “mom and dad.” I felt a pang of guilt as it seems I had to make all the decisions in regards to our girls – I got to hold them first, first kisses, first everything as dad watched on and happily took seconds on holding our girls for the first time. Now the girls are about to turn two, and as a dad, the girls absolutely adore him.
We have different roles in regards to their upbringing. We balance each other out, take turns when one of us is ready to pull our hair out and best of all, we watch out for each other. Even though I feel slightly jealous, both of our girls first word was “dad,” the joy on his face to hear his own children calling him that was priceless.
Having a dad is invaluable in a child’s life. The fact that you have another person who loves and cherishes you so much, to protect you and be there for you, is what we truly celebrate with Father’s Day. My girls and I are lucky to have him. So Happy Father’s Day to you rookie dads, veteran dads and for you dads to be. We love and deeply appreciate you not only on this day, but every day. Happy Father’s Day!
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Do you ever wonder about your baby and when he or she will be born? Do you think about that special moment when you get to hold the baby for the very first time? It is the most amazing feeling. The smell of a new baby, the cuddles, the smiles when they are sleeping, the coos and of course there are those cries of hunger pains, wet diaper, gas or just hold me. But oh such wonderful feelings. As I looked around this weekend while I was out with my family at an October festival at all the new babies and their mommies, I started to remember back to when I had my son Kaleb.
I longed for the day that I could hold him and see him smile, coo and yes even cry for something that he needed and Mommy could supply. That day came when I had Kaleb, except he was born unexpectedly, 13 weeks early. He was taken from me and I never saw him until 2 days after he was born. We were both in critical condition. I mustered the strength amongst a painful vertical c-section, heavy pain medications, and uncertainty of life, to get to the NICU where my son lay in an isolette connected to what seemed like hundreds of wires. What was happening I thought to myself. I wanted to hold my baby, but he was much too fragile to do that. I cried for hours as my husband comforted me and let me know that he will be okay, we just had to have faith and pray.
Day after day, we made the journey to the NICU, even after I had gone home without my baby to see him fighting for his life. One day, as I arrived, the nurse said to me, “are you ready to hold your baby?” I looked at her puzzled wondering if I heard her correctly. She started to explain to me about something called Kangaroo therapy. She explained how the heartbeat, breath sounds and warmth of a mother, will help the baby feel like he is still in the womb hearing those comforting sounds and it helps them recover so much quicker. I was excited but wondered how that would work.
It took three staff to get this done, 2 nurses and a respiratory therapist. The nurse was quite funny and asked me to go to the rest room first because once I started I was going to be there for as long as the baby would tolerate it. The whole process took about 15 minutes to get the wires taped, the baby settled and off he went inside my button down shirt on my chest. In an instant the nurse pointed to his monitor and how his blood pressure and heart rate stabilized. His breathing was not so labored. He stayed with me 45 minutes, they were so impressed. I had finally held my son, wires and all.
It was scary to hear all the beeping noises, but the nurses said if you relax, the baby will as well. I had all sorts of thoughts fluttering in my mind. As I sit here and remember that day, I still get teary eyed because it is a moment that I will never forget. Seven years ago today, I held my baby for the very first time 12 days after he was born. Today he is a lively 7 yr old and he still snuggles with mommy.
The first time a mom of a preemie holds her baby is so special. If you ever hear someone tell you that, take a moment, listen to them and send them hugs, love and prayers because that mom is rejoicing inside at the very first time she is holding her baby.
We at The Gift of Life couldn’t be prouder to announce that our very own Miracle Kaleb turns 7 today – Happy Birthday Kaleb. For those who don’t know, Kaleb was born weighing only 1 lb., 10 oz. The medical experts said he wouldn’t survive but look at him now.
Kaleb’s life is a miracle.
What is a Miracle?
Miracles are positive occurrences that reach beyond human understanding to testify of the greatness, power, and existence of life and love. Miracles defy odds and breakdown impenetrable walls of hindrance and limitation. They often render widely-accepted principles of logic and scientific prime candidates for reconsideration.
Consider, for example, the expert opinion that some of the doctors gave about Kaleb’s fate. They thought his life would end in the NICU. Today, however, Kaleb is a vibrant boy with shining personality. And today is his 7th birthday.
For those who receive dire diagnoses, the existence of miracles offers a reason to hope and an opportunity to deny the cravings of darkness chasing after them. The story of Kaleb Moore and his family is one about a real-life miracle. This nonfiction miracle story continues to inspire people to press on regardless of any harsh circumstances they may be facing.
It’s especially inspiring to the parents and families of other preemies. The Gift of Life exists in part to ensure this miracle is known by as many people at it can reach.
Facing Big Challenges and Finding Grand Triumph
For Kaleb, Rosie, and Marcus Moore, the NICU stay was far from easy. Kaleb had to be hooked up to all sorts of machines. The wires and tubes strung from his body. Finally getting released from the NICU was a big victory but the challenges didn’t end there. Kaleb and his family still had a big fight on their hands – a fight for life, peace, and sanity.
There were countless doctors’ visits that had to be made, as well as a dramatic shift in household management; Kaleb’s delicate health meant that the home had to be kept at an extraordinary germ-free. The uncommon and demanding rules for clean that the family had to adhere to for keeping Kaleb’s home environment how he needed it to be kept friends and other visitors at bay – some to never return.
Having a preemie effectively isolated the Moores. The only people who showed up were the ones who had a genuine heart of love for this family. Experiencing firsthand the stress and loneliness that parents of preemies, Rosie Moore founded The Gift of LIfe. The organization reaches out to families of preemies in the NICU and combats the lack of support they would otherwise suffer through.
Although the start of Kaleb’s life was rough, he and his family reaped victory for all their hard work and faith. The odds were against them. They not only made it through the impossible but turned around to give a helping hand to the families who would be forced upon the same path.
Miracle Kaleb: A Walking, Talking, Sweetheart of an Inspiration
We know that life’s not always easy, but we want you to know that you’re loved. You inspire us to be more than we guessed we were. Your life is a gift, not only to yourself and your family but to all people. Thank you for never giving up. And thank you for being a living example that miracles do exist.
Happy National Teddy Bear Day! For The Gift of Life, this is a very important holiday, and we’ll tell you why.
While many see this day as a time to remember their soft and cuddly childhood friend, the day gives us one more opportunity to reflect on why we serve and how our service impacts others.
Are Teddy Bears Really So Important?
Just about everyone has a sweet memory of a favorite toy from their childhood. Some grown-ups are fortunate enough to hold on to that toy and share the fun of it with the generations that follow. The toy could be a doll, truck, yo-yo, or even a teddy bear.
Not many toys earn the honor of having a holiday designated just for them. The teddy bear is clearly an exception.
But National Teddy Bear Day isn’t just about how much people of all ages have come to be fans of this toy. To understand the importance of this day, we have to dive deeper into the matter and take a look at where the idea of teddy bears come from – let’s take a quick walk through the history of the teddy bear.
The History of Teddy Bears and Teddy Bear Day
It’s probably not common knowledge, but all teddy bears are named after Former President Theodore Roosevelt.
People who grew up in the 19th century missed out on the joys of teddy bear ownership. These toys didn’t exist back then.
In 1902, Theodore Roosevelt decided to go hunting in Mississippi. During the trip, Roosevelt had an opportunity to “bag” a bear cub, but he didn’t do it. He refused to shoot the cute little cub, sparing it.
Later on, Clifton Berryman created a cartoon about the event and his work was published in the Washington Post. When a store owner in New York named Morris Michtom saw the cartoon, it inspired him to create a brand new toy – the teddy bear!
This political cartoon by Clifford Berryman was published in the Washington Post on November 16, 1902. It depicts President Theodore Roosevelt’s bear hunting in Mississippi and refusal to shoot a cub. This is the cartoon that inspired the creation of the ‘Teddy’ Bear.
What Teddy Bears Mean at The Gift of Life
Perhaps you’ve noticed that The Gift of Life’s logo is a purple teddy bear. There are many reasons why this fluffy childhood toy was chosen to represent our organization.
For starters, we visit the NICUs in Orlando each year around Christmas time and hand out little teddy bears, which we call love bears, to the families that are there – that’s just one of the things we do to help the families of preemie know that someone does care about what they’re going through.
But in light of National Teddy Bear Day (indeed, for the sake of it) let’s bring some even deeper meaning forward, taking a lesson from Roosevelt – as I’m quite sure he would want us to. The baby cub was spared, so teddy bears came into existence. The teddy bear, therefore, is symbolic of respect and hope for life, which is what we at The Gift of Life are all about.
The cub was a baby. It was a baby bear, so Roosevelt refused to shoot it, even though he was there to hunt. From this, we can conclude that Theodore Roosevelt was for preserving the life of the young- even fighting to protect it.
Every day, in neonatal intensive care units worldwide, there are preemies fighting for their lives. They have the assistance of the medical team and the prayers of those who care about them. Although these babies were born too soon for full development, love makes a difference in their lives however long life may be for them.
In the words of our founder, Rosie Moore, “Our Gift of Life Bear Project is utilized to give parents and children support as they go home when the real challenge of medical appointments starts to happen. It is a reminder that they received The Gift of Life and they can make it through anything with a little faith. They were born premature, but they are making it going home…..”
How You Can Help Us Celebrate National Teddy Bear Day
The way to celebrate National Teddy Bear Day on Twitter is through the hashtag #NationalTeddyBearDay. We’d really appreciate it if, you’d care to mention The Gift of Life in your tweets. Your social media mentions can help us gain more support and awareness.
National Teddy Bear Day comes just one day before our annual galas. Consider making plans to join us next year at our 4th annual black tie gala and celebrate with us.
Another great way to help The Gift of Life celebrate National Teddy Bear Day is by supporting our organization. Whether you opt to volunteer with us or just want to donate funds. Your gift matters and it does make a positive impact on the lives of preemie infants and their families.
Many parents to be and others that are not parents ask themselves, ”how does having a baby change your life?” Having a baby is a life changing experience that compares to no other. As parents you trade late night outings for late night feedings, trips to the spa, convert into trips to the par. Your once tiny designer bag becomes a large diaper bag and your little two-seater sports car becomes an SUV or minivan.
As parents you learn to adapt to maybe earlier bed times, family centered activities and socializing with parents having babies. But what happens when you have a baby that is a preemie?
When you have a baby that is a preemie, your life will be a completely different lifestyle. You will have wake ups every three hours to feed a baby that is tube fed, vs bottle or breast-fed, you can easily lose that bond with the baby, as some tube feedings can run continuous and some can run for an hour, depending on the doctor’s orders. Due to the g-tube that the baby has, maintaining the baby in a position of lying down, maybe elevated to avoid reflux takes that bond that you could have with the baby breast-feeding or bottle feeding. You have social isolation, or as some people like to call it, a plastic bubble. You say, why so fearful of germs? Well you see, a preemie baby is predisposed to a virus called RSV, which affects the baby’s lungs and can put the baby back on a ventilator and cause death if severe. Recent studies have shown that there is an outbreak of ” EV-D68 which causes respiratory illness. The virus can be found in an infected person’s respiratory secretions, such as saliva, nasal mucus, or sputum. EV-D68 likely spreads from person to person when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or touches a surface that is then touched by others.”
Social isolation with preemie parents is common, in that you miss out on play groups, church Sunday School, birthday party attendance or having people over to your baby’s birthday party, due to their delicate health. Your friends become those that take care of your baby, your doctors, nurses, therapists and other preemie parents that know and understand their delicate health. Why do we share this with you , you ask?
Rosie and Marcus are parents of a 1lb 10oz micro preemie. Today Kaleb is a happy 6 year old. Many birthdays and holidays have been celebrated at home with his grand parents and his parents only, because he has had on an off upper respiratory infections, causing him to be on breathing treatments and medications. As parents, we felt that we would take that precaution for his protection. He attends regular school with his classmates but also receives speech therapy that helps him with eating better and is around other like children who were preemie and are on his same level. It is a major milestone to have him be 6 years old , considering where he was when he came home 5 months after birth. He came home on tube feedings every 3 hours, 18 doses of medications per day, oxygen 24/7, 2 types of breathing treatments every 4 hours, heart monitors, multiple doctor visits per week and confined to your home, to await speech therapy three per week for feeding, occupational therapy 3 times per week, physical therapy 2 times per week and it goes on…As a result, many who knew us and were our friends, stopped being supportive, due to our lifestyle not fitting in to theirs. Friends stopped inviting us to their homes or outings because we had to cancel or decline a visit due to our child being sick. Maybe he was healthy but we could not take a chance during RSV season to expose him to the chance of getting it, for fear that it can land him back in the hospital on a vent. Many said , “oh my you turned in to a germ freak” even some family said, “you have to let him get sick and not live in a plastic bubble”. Still others just quietly drifted apart. You follow them on facebook and see their kids that you knew very well getting married, having babies of their own and wonder, wow where did the last 6 years go? Do you really have any friends?
One thing as a preemie parents that we did learn, you have to be able to say, we came this far, we cannot let anyone or anything come between our child’s health and well-being. If it means a small sacrifice of not going to a party or not having the neighborhood kids come by daily, then so be it. But what you can do as a parent, is find other parents in similar situations and connect with them. This is one of the reasons that the charity The Gift of Life was formed, to help parents connect, to be a resource for them whether financially or emotionally. Orlando lacks any support groups of this kind other than online and living in isolation with no one to speak to, is not healthy. We are so grateful for the good friends that we do have that we have known for 24 years, they have been there for us through all that we have gone through, even coming to volunteer at The Gift of Life Charity galas in years past.
Terry and Renee, dedicating their time to The gift of Life( missing Beth, at a previous engagement)
Connect with other parents of preemies who understand …
Kaleb is 6 years old, born at 27 weeks weighing 1lb 10oz, and 12 inches long, he is a happy 6 year old weighing in at 35lbs.
How can you get involved to help? Contact The Gift of Life and see how you can make a difference either financially or volunteer wise to help today. We hope that through our own testimony, many will come to understand what life in the world of a preemie parent is and that you have a better understanding of what these parents go through daily. If you lack the words to say. sometimes just being there and listening and saying, what can I do for you today, can make a world of a difference. Don’t ask a preemie parent what can you do to help, because sometimes there is nothing that will help, but there is always something that you can do and that is better phrased.
When Rosie Moore Married her love Marcus Moore, she always imagined that they would get pregnant and have a baby or two and life would be easy. After being married a year they decided that was the time to start their new family together. The year went by and no success. They visited their doctor who said hmm we shall have to start infertility treatments to help you along the way because your body has forgotten how to get pregnant after a 13 year lapse. So reluctantly for a few months they tried it the doctor’s way. Rosie got to the point that she did not want anymore interventions and planned appointments. They prayed to the Lord and said, Lord let your will be done. Three months after treatment stopped on the Friday before mother’s day, Rosie was able to give Marcus the biggest surprise ever. God intervened and they were expecting their first child.
A few months in to the pregnancy after all the other trials of pregnancy, the doctors discovered that Rosie had stroke level high blood pressure and she did not have any symptoms, which worried them. They became concerned and said immediate hospital stays were mandatory. Kaleb’s life and Rosie’s life were in danger. On an unssupecting day while already hospitalized, Kaleb’s heart rate dropped, he had the cord wrapped around his neck three times. An emergency c-section was needed. He had a reverse blood flow from the placenta, causing nutrients not to reach him. He was in danger of intrauterine growth retardation. If they left Rosie’s blood pressure elevated, he received the nutrients, but she would die, if they controlled the blood pressure, Kaleb would die. They waited as long as they could to take him, but that one unsuspecting early morning, their greatest fears came about, Kaleb’s heart rate dropped too fast, it was an emergency. Dr. Walker had him out within minutes in a crash c-section. Rosie was unconscious almost 24 hours, she did not know what happened.
Rosie and Marcus endured a 5 month stay with Kaleb in the NICU where daily doctors would say we don’t guarantee his life. There were days that they both wanted to give up hope, but each time they thought there was no hope, God gave them strength to keep going.
Until one day after being born at 1lb 10 oz and 27 weeks he was discharged after 23 weeks or 5 months in the NICU at 10lbs 1 oz. What an amazing God of miracles. Notice he reversed his weight at discharge from birth!
This is why Rosie Moore decided to put her story of faith on paper to help support those moms and dads that are struggling day in and day out wondering what will become of their child. Even after they go home on medications, treatments, equipment, there is hope! Today Kaleb is 6 years old and although he only has 1 kidney and some digestive issues, the doctors are amazed at his progress and development!
Join 27 Miracles and other Sponsors on September 10, 2015
The Gift of Life Charity Gala: Christmas in the City
This special night includes dinner, entertainment, guest celebrities, silent and live auction to bring awareness and support to The Gift of Life, a non profit organization that offers hope, encouragement and support to parents of premature babies, and neonatal intensive care units. Celebrating the daily miracles of premature newborns and encouraging all individuals & families through this journey.