Every experience in the NICU is different and heart-wrenching for family and friends. Below are a few stories from families Friends of NICU has helped. We are grateful to them for sharing their journeys.

Abigail

My oldest daughter, Abigail was born at 29 1/2 weeks. She was 2 lbs 2 oz. and with a heart murmur. At almost 2 months old, the day we thought we might be going home, her heart started to fail. We were rushed to UC Davis from Mercy San Juan for a PDA ligation. We returned to MSJ for about a week before finally coming home.

We were staying in the Ronald McDonald house, which is half an hour away from MSJ because our home is 2 1/2 hours away. FON helped us with gas cards, because even half an hour away, gas costs to come and see her were through the roof. But more than that, FON helped by being there. By reaching out that hand and saying, “Hey. I see you. I see what you’re going through. I’ve been there. I’m here for you and I want to help.”

When a mother is expecting her child, she dreams. She dreams about snuggling her baby, about dressing her baby, playing with her baby, singing to her baby, about bringing her baby home and showing her baby off to family and friends. But moms of preemies don’t get to do that. Their baby is in an isolette with so many tubes attached you can’t see their face. They aren’t the primary caregiver. They are told how and when they can touch and hold their baby. They don’t get to nurse right away, and sometimes at all. Instead of giggles and songs and cute outfits their world is about scrubbing hands and how many grams their baby gained or lost that day. Their life is about trips to the hospital and going to the bathroom with their phone in hand in case the hospital calls. All while trying to lead a somewhat normal life outside of this with other children, bills, work, etc. They are often separated from other family as one parent stays close to the hospital while the other goes home. Or they all have to leave the baby at the hospital and rely on phone calls to know how their baby is doing. I will never forget the first time I held my daughter when she was a full week old. I will never forget the first time I kissed her on top of the beanie she wore on her head when she was a month old. I will never forget the first time I was able to sing to her and rock her as I had always pictured myself doing and the nurse looking at me as I begged with my eyes to be allowed to continue. She nodded and said “Keep going, Mom. You’re doing good.” These babies are fighting for their lives.  There were times we didn’t know where the gas to go see her was going to come from. FON was there. There were times I felt lost and confused. FON was there. Science has proven that babies need to be cuddled and loved as much as they need food and air.  As a parent of a preemie, you often feel like you can’t do anything to help your child. As a mom in particular you often feel like you failed because your body couldn’t keep your child safe. The only thing you can do as a parent of a preemie is pray and love your child. Friends of NICU lets parents love their children by helping them be there with them.

Hailey

Hailey was an IUGR baby which means Inter Uterine Growth Restricted. As the name implies Hailey was small, just 3 lbs 14 oz. Her mother, Laura, conceived despite aggressive treatments for breast cancer that made it very doubtful she could conceive and carry a baby to term.

When Hailey was born, Laura didn’t know how they would be able to afford the one-hour drive to the hospital. When FON offered them the use of the mobile home, Laura instantly felt at peace knowing they could stay right at the hospital until Hailey was big enough to go home.

“I had panic attacks before Hailey was born because I knew it would be difficult to spend time with our little girl. But, then I found out we could stay in the Friends of NICU trailer right at the hospital. It was such a huge weight off my chest. I could focus on Hailey and not worry about how to make the drive every day.”

Hailey, who is healthy and happy, sprouted 7 teeth by the time she was 9 months old. She’s on track with all developmental milestones.

Karter

My water broke at 28 weeks (at work, Oroville Hospital) and I was shipped to MSJ. I was able to stay pregnant until 30w5d. After laboring for 10 hours on Oct 21, 2012, I was sent into have a c section. Karter was born at 3lb 11oz. Dr said that’s a “Big Preemie”. He let out the sweetest cry. We stayed in the hospital for 5 days and then we were on our own to find a way back to be with him as much as possible. Friends and family pulled together an amazing Crossfit fundraiser that we were fortunate enough to be able to afford hotel stays and gas to travel…but only for a short time.

We live a few hours away. We were told about the FON motorhomes and what they were for, but for some time they were occupied with other families. We received a gas gift cards to help travel and after 2 weeks, the motorhome became available to us. It was such a gift!!! One stress was lifted and we were able to be with our first born every day. We were able to make beautiful connections with the staff and other families. That today are lifelong friends. We received grocery gift cards to fill up the motorhome while we stayed.

Our family is forever grateful for the help and support from friends of NICU. You gave us hope then and today you inspire us to do more.

Nothing in this world is like having your own babies. I thank god that FON was there for us and supported all the other families like me. We wouldn’t be where we are today without the support from FON. So thankful and so blessed to have had them!