Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I Choose Hope- Joanna Moloney

By Joanna Moloney-

Choosing hope.  It’s a big task.  A brave task.  But without hope, what exactly do you have?
When my kids were born 15 weeks early.  When they weighed under two pounds.  When they couldn’t breathe on their own. When I couldn’t even hold them to comfort them.  Hope was all I had.  
One minute I was pregnant and glowing.  The hope that filled my consciousness then was that of a young wife, excitedly waiting for her family to double.  Hoping for two healthy babies. Hoping for an easy delivery.  Hoping that we would be able to handle twin infants.

The next minute I was ordered to stay in bed for fear of delivering A&R much too soon.  And then I was admitted to the hospital.  My hope quickly turned into something much less optimistic.  I hoped that they would stay inside long enough to survive and thrive.  Long enough to avoid the complications that often come with prematurity.    

A week later it happened.  I delivered my boys even though they weren’t ready yet.  My hope quickly turned into fear.  The fear of losing my boys, who were once so safe inside me.  Soon after the reality set in that they would need a lot of intervention to survive.  Now I simply hoped for one more day.  Days turned into weeks, and after months of oxygen and feeding tubes, brain scans and surgeries, hope was still the only thing I could cling to.  I witnessed way too much sadness in the NICU to ever to feel safe.  

And even when we finally did bring our babies home, that hope lingered.  Like a shadow that didn’t disappear when the sun went down.  “I hope they will walk.  I hope they will talk.  I hope they will learn.”  Hope is what kept me sane.  

And here we are.  Almost two years later.  A family of four.  We no longer view hope as the only thing that helps us move forward.  We just do what is necessary to give our boys the same chance that others get.  We are strong for them and we love them.  

We didn’t lose hope, no.  That hope that so diligently brought us herehas simply turned into life.  
No one asks for a preemie.  No one asks for a special needs child.  But if given the choice now, I wouldn’t ask God for anything else.  And yes, I am filled with hope.  Hope for my children’s future.  Because they did survive.  And they are thriving.  

Thursday, August 22, 2013

They Make Formula That Expensive?

By Jacob Hedgespeth-

When Conor was born my wife had made the decision to nurse Conor, which I backed 100%. So we started pumpingsoon after birth, Guys I say we because it is a team effort. If your wife is going to be successful at nursing in the NICU you have to be a helper. Anything from cleaning pump parts to making milk runs to your little blessing. I was on milk runs every three hours while Taryn was admitted in Norton Hospital for 9 days. Sleep? Are you kidding me, that’s a thing of the past while you as a new father and husband are trying to keep your family afloat in a NICU! 

The hardest thing I can remember were the 3AM trips from our room in Norton Hospital across the street to Kosair NICU. Just because by that time you had made several already, and the lack of sleep really catches up about that time. But I always think of the footprints in the sand poem. There were many nights I know God was carrying me from hospital to hospital, hallway to hallway, and from my wife to my son. This isn’t easy, but it can be done fellas! I say all that to get back to my big point here. If your wife is on the fence about breastfeeding or has made her mind up to nurse, just do one thing HELP HER! 

You have no idea the amount of impact your words and actions have on a woman whom has had this important decision thrown her way most of the time unexpectedly. We nursed as long as we could, HELLP syndrome did a number on my wife’s body, I felt we were lucky to have been able to nurse as long as we did. We came home and a month after that we made the choice to put Conor on Similac Neosure which as most of you will know is a high calorie formula and is very expensive. We just got the news at Conor’s one year checkup that he can be taken off Neosure and placed on whole milk. Believe me, my wallet enjoys it but there is a big part of me that hurts to lose that little baby that I held for so long during those late nights at the NICU. 

But seeing him hit the 50th percentile in weight for his age was amazing. Here comes the full circle of this post and I credit his awesome milestones, his gains, and all that has been in his story on the great start that me and my wife gave him by nursing. Remember fellas, always be helpful, if your wife thinks she is not making enough milk, research milk enhancers, and call the lactation nurses in to help. Be more than a husband and father in the NICU. Be a hero.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

In Hindsight: The NICU has molded, not defined, the dad I am today

By Joel Brens-

To whom it may concern:

I am the proud father of a child born prematurely. My wife was forced to deliver at 32 Weeks and 6 days after the artery blood flow in the umbilical cord became diastolic, meaning the flow was starting and stopping. On top of the direness of the situation, I was stuck at work for almost an hour until I could leave for the hospital. I arrived just minutes after my son was born.  It was the scariest day of my life. But what might surprise you is that it was also the most wonderful day of my life. I remember the moment I saw him being wheeled out of surgery in an incubator. Tiny and fragile, he was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I wept tears of joy. Even full of anxiety and uncertainty, becoming a father has been the single greatest moment of my life.

It's been a little over three years since that fateful day. How I have grown as a dad, as a husband, and as a person is flabbergasting. But not in the way you might think. You see, the experiences I have had in and after the NICU have molded me, but in no way do they define me. Believe it or not there is a distinct difference between to two. First of all, my son, my wife and I are not victims. We do not seek pity from others, nor do most NICU parents. The NICU is not a reason to set the bar incredibly low. While speech and developmental delays are a very tangible obstacle we are dealing with, we meet it head on every day. When people ask how my son is doing, I beam with pride, and why shouldn't I? He has already overcome so much!  

When my son is old enough to truly understand the gravity of his early birth, it will not be used as an excuse for shortcomings. His grasp of his story can and will be used as a tool to remind him he can overcome any adversity he stumbles upon. Moreover, every day he will know he has the ability to make conscious decisions on attitude, drive, and accountability. He will understand the importance of hope, gratitude, and most importantly, love. Because we as his parents make a choice every day to mold him that way.

Being the parent of a preemie hasn't defined the person you see today. But I am blessed to know it has molded the father/husband/man I am and strive to be in the future.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Godspeed Little Man

By Jacob Hedgespeth- 

I wish one year ago someone could have shown me a picture; just a glimpse of what Conor is today. A year ago I was facing the most difficult time in my entire life, and how was I to know the savior of this story was going to be weighing in at 3 pounds 11 ounces. The night before Conor was born I was in essence losing my wife. HELLP syndrome was shutting her body down and doing everything it could to rid its self of the pregnancy. Then BAM! Here comes this little superman to save the day. He stole my heart that afternoon, and I plan to let him keep it. 

In this year I have got to watch this little guy hit so many milestones, from the many NICU milestones like coming off oxygen to passing his car seat test. I have went on to fear RSV and fighting the stupid hard fight to get my son an injection to help prevent it. I have listened to his first words uttered “da-da” which melted my heart. I have let go of his little hands and watched him stumble off with his first steps at 10 months old. I will watch on July 28th as my son gets a handful of cake and gets in in every place imaginable, and Daddy will gladly clean it up! I will continue to watch all these things as he grows up but I will never forget where we came from, what community we belong to. 

As we are part of the elite, we are part of a community that few would wear as a badge of honor. We are a NICU family, and I am a NICU dad! As always I hope this reaches someone that needs to read it, they need these words right now in their journey through or leaving the NICU.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Moms Say Thanks- Meghan Langan

By Meghan Langan-

The theme for my youngest son’s conception, pregnancy, birth, and early infancy was, “It could have been worse”. After struggling to get pregnant, my husband and I suffered a miscarriage. My husband, an officer in the Air Force, was scheduled to deploy and we decided we had no time to lose and sought out professional help. My son’s conception was expensive and painful at times, but after only two rounds of the least invasive procedures I ended up pregnant again. We were so thankful and realized that it could have been worse.

My husband left for his deployment shortly after my first trimester which was filled with bleeding and worry. We didn’t plan on his return until a month after my due date.  My older son and I stayed put at our current assignment until we got the bad news at 21 weeks. I had placenta previa which would most likely mean an early delivery by c-section with possible bed rest. And so, alone, I made preparations for the worst. Our families helped my oldest son and I move back home into my parent’s spare bedrooms in Illinois. I was a stay at home mom in a financially stable position with a family that lovingly took us in. It could have been worse!

At 31 weeks I had my first episode of bleeding from the placentapreviaIt was a minor bleed and I was put on “princess bed rest” at home. My mother found an amazing daycare for my son and her front door was a revolving door of family helping take care of my son and me. It could have been worse!

My husband’s commanders understood the delicate nature of our situation and arranged for him to come home early. A week after I went on bed rest my husband came home. I could not relocate back to our station with him and after two short weeks he had to leave us with my parents and go back to our home in Alabama. His plane touched down 12 hours before I hemorrhaged. At 34 weeks I delivered our youngest son, Nathaniel, via emergency c-section. My husband’s plane back to Illinois landed one hour after his delivery. We were overjoyed that I had made it to 34 weeks and my husband was home much earlier than we had ever anticipated when this journey started. It could have been worse!

Our son’s NICU stay was 17 days long. He had some breathing troubles and needed to learn to eat. 

My mom’s house, were we were still residing, was 45 minutes away and I could not drive. My husband’s unit arranged for him to be on sick leave, allowing us to be at our son’s bedside every day, all day, and by my breast pump all night. My son experienced only a few minor setbacks and was released from the hospital with a great prognosis. It brings tears to my eyes whenever I think about how fortunate we were because it could have been so much worse.

The man I picked to be my partner and father to my children could not have been better. Every time I fell apart, he reminded me why we had to be strong. Every time I thought we should quit, he pressed on for me. From across the globe he still managed to be the glue our family needed. I hope to never repeat our experience with Nathaniel’s early story, but if I do, he’s the only man I want by my side. After all, he is the one who taught me that it could have been worse.