September is NICU Awareness Month. The fact that I am posting this on the last day of the month is not lost on me. Between kids being sick and crazy work/writing schedules and life in general, it’s not surprising that I’m behind schedule. But as I lay on the couch this morning, alternately sweating and succumbing to chills—I, too, am now sick—I realized I needed to give a shout out to the families who right this minute are sitting next to their babies’ bedside, their hearts both breaking and full of hope. And I needed to give a shout out to the organizations and individuals who are supporting these parents, trying to ease the pain of their journey.
September is always the month that I’m pulled back in time to our own NICU experience, to those hours and days and weeks that Donny and I sat next to our tiny Stella, hoping hoping that she would be okay, that we would get to take her home soon. This year, on the anniversary of my diagnosis with severe preeclampsia and the night before Stella’s eleventh birthday, I stood at a podium at the Preeclampsia Foundation’s annual Saving Grace Gala in front of hundreds of people who had been touched by preeclampsia and who had spent hours, days, months holding tiny lives in their arms, praying.
It was an emotional night, full of stories of loss. (You can read the story of Baby Grace, for whom the gala was named, here.) But it was also full of stories of hope. And a call to action: What can we do to help, to make a difference, to stop this kind of loss?
Having a child in the NICU is like being catapulted into an alternate universe—a terrifying one. And sadly 10-13% of babies spend time in a NICU. Luckily there are organizations that are providing support to families with babies in the NICU. Eden’s Garden is a local Twin Cities organization that was born from loss, created in memory of Eden Bryn Hedin, a twin, who was born at 28 weeks and spent her entire life—241 days—in the NICU before she passed away in her parents’ arms. Scott and Amanda Hedin understand how difficult and heartbreaking having a child in the NICU can be, even if that child survives, so they started Eden’s Garden as a way to honor their daughter’s short life and to help families on a similar journey. They are hosting their annual fundraiser, Wine in the Garden, on October 10th at Cannon River Winery, so they can help more NICU families in need.
As you know, Stella is now a happy and healthy book-loving, soccer-obsessed eleven-year-old. (Her latest record for foot juggles is 117. You should see her out their on the sidewalk with her soccer ball, not willing to give up.) I know how lucky we are. But no one should have to start parenthood in the NICU. No baby should have to begin life attached to tubes and wires, surrounded by blaring alarms.
If you can, please support families who are living through that nightmare.