Every year The Gift of Life delivers Love Bears and Santa Hats to the Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU). This year was no different. What is the story behind this passion that volunteers have to knit and crochet bears and hats? Love is the common denominator. If you can think of what it would be like to have a baby earlier than expected, lying in an incubator, fighting for his/her life, and being told that you cannot bring your baby home, this news is enough to put any parent into depression. Although we cannot change the circumstances, our volunteers get the meaning of the work that they do and with their talents bring a smile to the parents whose babies will not be going home. This year Florida Hospital and Winnie Palmer Hospital received Santa Hats. The families at Florida Hospital and families with babies in the Winnie Palmer NICU staying at the Ronald Mc Donald House also received Love Bears made by the senior citizens of The Good Samaritan Village, If we can bring a smile to ease the day for a grieving parent, then we have all done our job.
Merry Christmas from The Gift of Life!
Thank you to Bruce Reynolds, videographer for The Gift of Life Christmas Bear Delivery. Thank you to Jackie Pettit, mother of a premature baby who is now an adult, she dedicates her time to always preparing and delivering the Christmas hats and bears.
Contact The Gift of Life today to get involved in our knitters/crochet Facebook group who make the hats and bears all year round.
The Gift of Life from time to time has guest bloggers and real life stories. Today we have a story by Danielle, the mom of a preemie. Take a moment to read Danielle’s journey through the preterm birth of her baby in her own words.
My story. I’ve been asked a time or two to write it, but find it really difficult to think about that time. Those times. Two of them. No, my story isn’t as bad as some and my kids are doing quite well, but it still leaves its mark. Six years on and I still wonder if I will ever approach birthday time without flashbacks of all the beeping of monitors, frantic wishes for another breath, tears at yet another bad day.
I would have been fine without kids. I had been told by various medical professionals that pregnancy was unlikely anyway. Yet, there I was, staring at two pink lines. A few weeks later, the doctor said “it isn’t viable.” He told us to go home and wait for a miscarriage. That was how we spent Christmas and New Year’s. At 27 weeks (after he admitted it “might” be viable), he told me I had to go to the hospital because my blood pressure was too high. A few days later, a nurse sheepishly handed me a pamphlet about living wills and scurried away. I found out that the doctor told my husband I had a 50% chance of surviving and he wouldn’t even put a number on our daughter. Next month she will be 6.
You know all those posts about bonding with your baby and oh-so-sweet labor stories? Ya, none of that. I didn’t want to see her. She looked like an alien monkey. I didn’t want to get out of bed. It hurt. It physically hurt and the guilt of not keeping her healthy and safe emotionally hurt. The poor nurse – I was so angry at yet another stick of my 1lb 12oz baby’s poor, bruised foot. The surgeon hovered and threw out acronyms like NEC. Yet, 56 days later Willow passed her car seat test and came home.
She rushed through milestones like she rushed through pregnancy. Today, she struggles a bit with ADHD and SPD, but races through each day with more exuberance than I know how to handle. She is my sunshine.
My second pregnancy lasted 32 weeks. I think stress played a big factor in that one. Ocean made it to 4lbs 7oz and only 3 weeks in the NICU. We felt like pros, waving away explanations of the process. Still, the hour drive each way, every day took its toll on both our strength and our finances. Ocean has a dairy allergy, is more susceptible to seasonal allergy issues, and has some anxiety-related issues, but nothing major. She will be 4 in July.
We are lucky. My daughters lived and so did I. They didn’t come home with tubes or machines or scars from surgeries. Yet, I still check every night to see if they are breathing. I still worry and Google every learning issue. I wonder how they will do through their own reproductive journey. They are beautiful and happy. So why does is it so painful to remember? Why is it so hard to crochet preemie hats without crying? PTSD, maybe, although I feel selfish for my feelings considering some friends had preemies who didn’t make it.
The lesson here is this: no matter how much time you have to spend “parenting” and no matter someone else’s experience, you are still you with feelings and experiences that deserve recognition. There was no time for that in the NICU or when we brought the tiny babies home. Even now, a minute to complete a thought is so rare. Only recently – almost 6 years after – did I start to remember more of the stress. Only with recognition, support, and patience was I able to acknowledge all the pain, anger, depression, and fear and morph into a healthier, more peaceful individual. A better parent, a better spouse, a better me. I read posts and comments by older moms of preemies now grown and they talk about it like it was nothing, completely over-shadowed by a lifetime of great memories. I made it this far. So will you.
Visit The Gift of Life page www.thegiftoflife27.org
As we approach Mother’s Day and you start to think about what a mother is, what your mother did for you and how you can make someone’s mother day special, this letter came to my mind shared by a fellow NICU ( Neonatal Intesnive Care Unit) mother to another. After going through this experience myself, I know how both mothers feel.
Dear New NICU Mom,
I recognized you the other day. You came out of the NICU, your husband right behind you. You walked slowly, like maybe you had a c-section last week, but you didn’t still look pregnant. You were both crying softly. You looked exhausted. I knew that look.
My baby and I had to meet someone in a NICU waiting area at our city’s children’s hospital for a research study. You saw us sitting there in the waiting area. You looked at me. I smiled a sad smile at you and you returned it.
What I wanted to say, what I tried to say in that sad smile, was this:
I know how it feels.
I was you eight months ago.
I have cried those quiet, uncontrollable tears – on a good day by NICU standards – as I put my tiny son back in his incubator after a kangaroo care session, carefully juggling wires and tubes, nestled him in, put a fleece blanket over the box to keep the light out. Watched the monitor to make sure the numbers indicated that he was comfortable before I left. I, too, hesitated before I smoothed the last corner down, peeked through the plexiglass and choked up as I whispered – goodnight, my baby, I love you, I will see you soon.
I have walked that slow, heart-wrenching walk, away from my sweet tiny baby. Pain in my abdomen, where a baby should still be, halting my steps. Crying, not sure if I’m embarrassed for a stranger in the hospital to see my tears, or if maybe crying in a hospital is what people expect, or if I don’t even care.
I am so sorry I am here with my healthy infant, confronting you right here as you leave your baby behind for now.
My gargantuan baby (to you anyway, I know) weighs 15 pounds and 10 ounces today. Five times his birth weight exactly. He is healthy and normal for his adjusted age. No more oxygen, no more wires, no medications. He didn’t even go to the doctor at all in April. I know he looks like a freak of nature to you. Sometimes even I can’t believe this is the same baby who could curl up into a little ball under my cupped hands. That I watched with delight and thanksgiving as his stick-like limbs got chunkier and his little belly became roly-poly and his eyes went from murky blue-gray to clear blue and his ears grew cartilage that makes them stick out.
Your little baby is perfect. How big is your baby? I want to ask. Actual and adjusted age? How is she doing today? Were you able to hold her?
When I smile at you, holding this giant baby, I want to tell you that I hope with all my heart that your baby will be fine too. That the fear slows down as time passes. And if your baby does need oxygen, wheelchairs, braces, monitors, tubes, I want to tell you that a gift of the NICU is that now I can look past the medical devices. If that is what your child needs, when I see you in public in a year or two, I will see your beautiful child, not his equipment.
New NICU mom, in the glance we shared, I just wanted you to know that I’ve been there. This healthy baby on my lap has been where your baby is. We know how much it hurts. It’s okay that you’re crying, NICU mom. Your journey is hard. Sometimes you have to cry. Let me share your burden for a moment. I know how to carry it.
A recent NICU mom
This letter just brings tears to your eyes. This is what The Gift of Life is trying to do for NICU moms and dads. On September 10, 2016, The Gift of Life is hosting an event called Christmas in the City to benefit The Gift of Life, a non profit organization offering hope, encouragement and support to parents of premature babies and neonatal intensive care units. Your attendance and donation to this event will help many parents going through this pain and stress receive this message of hope.
Please visit our event website to purchase your ticket today and if you cannot attend, please consider a donation to the event, every little bit helps.
Sometimes people get involved with charities because they have gone through the experience, know someone who did or they are genuinely touched by what the charity stands for.
On September 12, 2015, The Gift of Life had its annual charity gala. Founder and President Rosie Moore, wanted to honor someone who made a difference. As she stood on stage, she called a few people up by name.
Olivia/ born at 23 weeks 1lb 7 oz./ Doctors told her parents three times to plan her funeral because there was nothing more they could do. One doctor stood up and said, let’s give her a chance and try something new. Here she is almost 24 years old!
Erin/Born at 24 weeks 1lb 6oz, doctors did not assure her living as she was too tiny. Here she is almost 24 years of age.
Ashtyn/Born at 35 weeks 5lbs 6oz, here she is 17 yrs. Old.
Alyssa/ Born at 28 weeks 4lbs 3 oz., here she is at 14 years old
Bryanna/Born at 28 weeks 2lbs 6oz, here she is at 14 yrs. Old
Alyssa and Bryanna are twins.
Destiny/ Born at 26 weeks 1lb 13 oz., here she is at 8 yrs. Old
Kaleb/Born 27 weeks 1lb 10 oz., doctors did not guarantee his life or Rosie’s life, it was either her life or his that would be sacrificed, but God had other plans. He placed Dr. Walker in their path to save Rosie and Dr. Bernstein to save Kaleb. Here he is at 5 years of age.
Many may ask why we share these pictures and stories. Rosie Moore wants to be sure that you see what supporting The Gift of Life does for premature babies, but also what it does for their parents.
All the parents who had premature babies stood up in support of The Gift of Life. Prematurity affects all ages, all races, all socioeconomic status, all religions. But we can make a difference.
On September 12, 2015 The Gift of Life honored someone who was not premature, but knew in her heart that she wanted to help babies that were born premature. She has a great set of parents that instilled in her values of helping others. This little girl gave up her free time when she was not in school to go to events and help The Gift of Life.
The Gift of Life recognized this little girl with this Gift of Life Bear….
Jazlyn is the little girl that makes and sells the cute little hair bows. If you have not already purchased or ordered one please contact The Gift of Life to order yours. If you want to sponsor her so she can continue to buy the materials to make the bows that would be great!