My baby doesn’t belong in the NICU.
At least, that’s what I thought while I held my seven-pound, full-term newborn in a room surrounded by tiny preemies tucked away in incubators, fighting to survive.
My baby doesn’t belong.
Or, maybe, I don’t belong.
My NICU experience was fraction of the time other parents endure. I came to the hospital with a baby born under emergency conditions and left two days later with a healthy child. This is not a typical NICU story, and I often feel wrong putting myself in that club.
I have friends whose children spent weeks, even months in the hospital, their contact with their precious babies reduced to supervised hours and minimal privacy. I have friends who spent days watching their tiny miracles give their all to survive, only to succumb to the will of G-d. I witnessed other parents during my visits to the NICU, whose bravery never wavered in the face of uncertainty.
Even though, my child wasn’t in the NICU for long. The time I spent with him there taught me just how valuable a caring and supportive environment can be for both newborns and parents. As I sat there in that uncomfortable hospital chair, awkwardly trying to nurse my child without detaching the numerous wires affixed to his body, I listened to the sounds of nurses tirelessly rushing from incubator to incubator, checking vitals and comforting bewildered parents. Because I was able to spend time with my child alone, I had the unique opportunity to observe other families and empathize with their hopes, fears and dreams.
One common connection between all NICU families, as this immense feeling of gratitude. Even those who’ve experienced the greatest of loss, still find meaning and purpose in the midst of tragedy. These parents are an inspiration and a reminder how hope can shine through the darkest of moments.
One such mother is Stacey Skrysak, a journalist and writer who, along with her husband Ryan founded Triple Heart Foundation in honor of their premature triplets, Peyton, Parker and Abby. Born in 2013 at just a little more than 22 weeks gestation, only Peyton survived, with Abby passing shortly after birth and Parker passing in the NICU at nearly two months old.
Like many of the families I saw in the NICU, the Skrysaks were unable to hold their fragile babies; their only contact limited to watching their children through the Isolette windows. A nurse suggested they read to their babies, so Stacey and Ryan brought books to the hospital forming a bedside library for future NICU families to use during their visits.
Inspired by their experience, in 2016 the Skrysaks launched Triple Heart Foundation to provide books to NICU parents in the Springfield, Illinois area. These gifts of books go along way in comforting the families and providing a sense of connection in an often isolating environment.
The Skrysaks hope the continued support of their foundation will enable them to expand their services to more hospitals in Illinois and beyond.
You can help this incredible charity, by providing monetary or new book donations. Volunteers are always needed, as well. During this time of year, the comforts of books can go a long way toward easing the experience of NICU parents.
It is my honor to feature Triple Heart Foundation as this months Blogging for Better charity. If you’d like to join this project, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.