The Upworthy Article

A few weeks ago I got an email from a writer at Upworthy. He was working on an article and in researching he had come across a piece I’d written for The Mighty and, in turn, my blog. He wanted to know if he could use excerpts from my piece within his piece. Before I could answer him I needed to know more about the tone of the piece and the content. What would he be telling the world that my name would be attached to? Turns out, he was working on a piece about random acts of kindness by strangers involving kids. After hearing this I was sold and gave him my blessing to write about our experience.

The world needs more kindness. Less judgment and more of people helping one another. Three years ago, I was the first to judge the mother whose child sat naked in a diaper in the Wal-Mart basket. To question “What is wroooong with that child??” when hearing a kid throw a tantrum. I thought that because my child was fully dressed, clean and quiet I was succeeding where they were not.

Then, I gave birth to the tantrum thrower. The child with the messy face and hair who may not always be wearing pants. The kid who has needs that may not be visible to the naked eye. I’ve learned not to judge anymore. Now, I want someone to say something. I beg them to give me their opinion. I wish some ballsy old version of myself would try to shame me. Because then I could put them in their place like only a Momma bear, therapy three times a week, braces and Baclofen twice a day, gotta get my son a wheelchair special needs kinda Momma can. I don’t want that.

Be kind to one another. Oftentimes that Momma is doing the best she can. We don’t know her story. She doesn’t know ours.

With that said, I am so humbled by the opportunity to have my work recognized and used for the greater good. A writer appreciated my work enough to use it in his own. That’s huge for this amateur! And also, so much love to Arick for inspiring me to write the original piece with his love and dedication to our son. He has my whole heart.

http://www.upworthy.com/these-stressed-out-parents-got-help-from-a-surprising-source-total-strangers?c=ufb1

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Finding My Nemo

We decided months ago that Finding Dory would be the first movie we took Avery to see in theaters. Since he’s 2 and a half now, he enjoys watching TV and understands a great deal despite his brain malformation. Polymicrogyria has taken his ability to use his left arm and given him a speech and learning delay- so far- but it hasn’t stolen his sense of adventure or attention span. He loves cartoons! He also has cerebral palsy as a result of the PMG and we are realizing that, as he grows, it will become increasingly more difficult to make accomodations for him. So now, while he’s small, we decided to do what may be too difficult to do often in the future. To do something normal.

This isn’t about Dory, though. It’s about Nemo. My Nemo.

The night before we took him, we decided to watch Finding Nemo since it had been years since his father and I last saw it. So many years that I wasn’t a special needs parent the last time I watched it. So many years that all of the little things that jumped out at me this time weren’t even given a second thought before. Why had I never looked at Nemo and seen his disability? Sure, I realized that his small fin was part of the storyline. But I never realized how integral it was to the story.

Avery was born weighing just a little over a pound. You may wonder, what is such an extreme preemie made of? Strength. Determination. Fight. Courage. For the first four months of his life, Avery lived in the NICU. Fighting for each breath. Just like Nemo was determined to return to his father, my son was determined to fight for the very chance to come home to his. They both fought insurmountable odds to return to their families. Realizing the parallels, tears began to stream down my cheeks.

Me? I’m Marlin. I’ve taken on the role of helicopter Mom with fervor. “Avery, be careful.” “He CAN’T eat that.” “Make sure he is breathing well.” “I’m just checking his breathing.” “Yes, again.” Don’t go to far, or crawl too quickly, or stand near that person who just sneezed. Like Pavlov’s dogs, I’ve been trained. I expect the worst because, historically, I’ve gotten the worst. Marlin and I, you see, I think we suffer from PTSD. We fear for good reason.

As the movie went on I realized I was being taught a lesson, not only as a mother but as a person. If Nemo’s imperfect fin could be his “lucky” fin, why can’t Avery’s left arm be his “lucky” arm? Why does it have to be a disability? We’ve been taught to look at differences as imperfections for so long and instead of embracing them we’re embarrassed by them. I don’t want to see the day that my son isn’t proud of every unique part of himself. So what if he isn’t made like everyone else. He was given a journey all his own. That journey just so happens to include a unique brain and a lucky fin.

Avery’s journey is far from over. He will have many more mountains to climb in the future. I’ll have many more worries. New, terrifying worries. How will we ever make it? That’s easy. One breath, one flip of a lucky fin, one “lefty did it!” at a time.

Just like Nemo did.

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Here I am, again.

I had a gut feeling, I guess. From the moment that second line showed up I was skeptical. The part of me jaded by loss whispered in my ear, “it won’t work out.” Arick insisted that I stay strong and grounded. I tried. I tried so hard to be positive. But that nagging feeling wouldn’t leave me.

While I can’t say this baby was planned, I will say it wasn’t prevented. For the first time in three years we weren’t surprised by a pregnancy. We embraced it, both truly happy to have chosen to add this child to our family. We’ve never been disappointed or unhappy without our surprises but this one felt different in that we knew it was a possibility.

My previous losses have always been late. Neferious losses that caused me to endure induction, labor and emergency d and c’s. Eleven weeks, sixteen weeks, twenty-one weeks. I was always past that “safe zone.” We’d heard heartbeats, seen squirmy little legs on grainy ultrasound screens. And then they were gone. We were forced to retract our announcements. To tell the world the news that we were sadly no longer expecting.

Now, once again, we are no longer expecting.

With each loss I would swear I’d never tell a soul should I ever be pregnant again. Not until the baby was snuggled safely in our arms. Like a fool, each time I go back on my word. I get too happy and end up sharing the news. It was no different this time. I’ve never had an early miscarriage so that fear wasn’t strong. It’s weeks 10-20 that terrify me. Yes, I had that nagging feeling. But I always made it safely through the first trimester. So we shared our joy with our loved ones. Now, we shamefully take it back.

It’s embarrassing, humiliating and demoralizing. I cannot adequately perform what my very body was made to do. I am woman…I should grow and give birth to children. But for some reason the ability to do so effortlessly was lost on me. Instead I am a wasteland. A dry, unwelcoming desert. And there is absolutely nothing I can do about it.

The hardest part has been seeing Arick as heartbroken as I but unable to express his pain. It isn’t the same for a man, I know that. He’s got the added burden of being my protector and source of strength. Meanwhile, not only does he hurt but my pain causes him to hurt more. This time I told him, he doesn’t deserve to be going through all of this. He said,”No one does. YOU don’t.”

I stopped asking myself “why me?” long ago. I never want to grow calloused to the gravity of loss. Each and every child has been very much loved, and very much wanted. But when is enough, enough? I know Arick struggles most with this. Why get pregnant at all if you don’t know that you’ll bring home a child in the end? My answer to this is faith. I have faith that whatever is in God’s plan will be. I’m not super religious but I believe each life created is sanctioned by Him. And it is His to take away.

I’d like to say that I’ll never again tell you that we are pregnant. I despise the way I feel right now. It’s so uncomfortable, so raw. But I can’t say that with certainty. We both feel as if there is room for one more child in our family.

So our plan going forward is to not have a plan. I don’t know where that will take us. I just pray that the road is paved smoothly, with less bumps and more sunshine. And maybe, if we’re lucky, there will be a rainbow on the other side.

A Thank You Letter to my Son’s Physical Therapist

I’ll never forget the day you came into our lives. It was a humid early October morning, the kind we often remember as the last of the warm days before the brief reprieve we call winter here. You were there that morning to evaluate my son for ECI, and within minutes I could see the love and dedication you have for what you do. Before long, I saw that same love and dedication become not only for your job, but for my son. It was through you that I’d learn to think big and never underestimate what he was capable of.

For the entire time I have known you I knew I would end up writing this. I could see myself sitting here now typing painful, but so necessary, words. In my heart, the circumstances were far different than a move six short months before your time with us would end when he aged out of the program, but the emotions are the same. So here I am, writing a goodbye two years in the making.

You told me from the beginning that Avery was capable of anything. Far before his formal diagnosis of CP or polymicrogyria, you stressed to me that he was strong and determined. You saw such potential in him despite the fact that at nearly one year old he could not roll over, sit up, or do much beyond laying like a newborn. I wouldn’t let myself feel the kind of hope that you felt. My heart needed protecting. If he did not do all the things you thought he would, I didn’t want my heart to be broken.

Only a month into our time together I watched him roll over with you. I cried. A year’s worth of emotion poured out of me so effortlessly, as you would find it often did when you were around. You’d say “If I’m here and you haven’t cried yet, something must be wrong!” Normally I’d be saddened by this, but every single tear I ever cried, save those last ones, were happy tears. I want you to leave our family knowing this.

If it weren’t for you I would not have the skills to help my son continue to progress. You gave me the tools I needed to strengthen and support him. Your hard work saw Avery go from completely immobile to taking steps. We got to celebrate Avery learning to sit up, crawl and stand. All of those things are credited to you.

Sometime when you’d first began seeing Avery, in those early, fear filled days, I asked you if you thought he would be able to walk one day. You gave me a crazed look of disbelief and asked me if I knew my son. Of course I did! “Well then yes, he will!” And he did.

Avery walks because of you.

I want you to know that we love you. You have done something for our family that only you were capable of. Not only will it be your therapeutic skills but also who you are intrinsically that we will miss. Your cheerful disposition and no-nonsense approach would turn Avery’s bad attitudes around every week. Even when he fought you for every kneel or stretch you never gave up on him.

Your dedication to our special kids shows me how much good is left in this world. Every family entering ECI and beginning the blind journey of special needs parenting should be gifted with a Leanne of their own.

From the bottom of my heart I want to say thank you. I’ll do everything I can to ensure than my son grows up to remember you and what you’ve done for him. What you did for us. What you will do for countless other kids like him.

Physical therapists become the unsung heroes far too often. Your job is a difficult one. And emotionally taxing and sometimes sad one. I know it isn’t always easy. So please, know how much your work means to us. Without you, I don’t want to think about were Avery would be today. I know without question that he wouldn’t be the sassy, headstrong little boy who now takes independent steps. That’s all you.

A physical therapist changed my sons life. You changed my sons life.

Thank you, for everything.

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Preeclampsia- Raising Awareness

My oldest child was born at the end of a long, tiresome pregnancy. That pregnancy itself nearly broke me; I sometimes forget just how closely I came to not surviving the entire thing. Today, Abby is eleven. Despite what you might think, especially if you know me and are aware than preeclampsia in its milder form played a part in the birth of my micro preemie, it is Abby’s story that terrifies. It’s the one that to this day gives me nightmares.

I had a fairly normal pregnancy during the first few months. All of my tests came back indicating that we were having a healthy baby girl. I was giddy anticipating the dresses, hair bows and tiny shoes I would place on the little girl that, by my 28th week, I decided would be named Abigail. Unfortunately, it was also around that time that I began to feel what I can only describe as “off.” I started to become unusually tired, my feet and hands began to swell and I would get dizzying, debilitating headaches. My midwife- I had this intense desire for a completely natural birth, thus my decision to see a midwife and not an obstetrician- grew concerned when my blood pressures started to creep up. She put me in the hospital the weekend of my 29th week and it seemed as if, if I stayed in bed, my pressures stayed at manageable levels. I went home on Monday, diagnosed with transient pregnancy induced hypertension. She recommended I start bed rest immediately.

I gave bed rest a valiant effort. I still showered each day for as long as I felt able and made my own meals. I was alone much of the time and there were simply some tasks that I had to accomplish myself. It was incredibly difficult to have life going on everywhere around me and mine standing still. I managed until 36 weeks, when I noticed that I still felt badly even when laying. My midwife took one look at me that week and knew I was going downhill. My blood pressure was 160/90. She sent me home to collect a 24 hour urine catch- one of the tell-tale signs of preeclampsia progressing and becoming dangerous is increasing protein levels in the urine. It just so happened to be a Friday so I would not return with my sample until Monday morning. I remember sitting in the waiting room and watching the Michael Jackson trial. Turns out I didn’t need that urine. My blood pressure was 180/100 and I was sent to the hospital to be induced. It was April 11, 2005.

I was induced immediately and within four hours I was being ripped apart by pitocin induced contractions that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. After 12 hours with little progress, they allowed me rest for 8 hours. All the while, my blood pressure soared and I was hooked up to a magnesium drip. The mag itself felt like fire flowing into my veins. I sweat profusely. It slowed my central nervous system and caused me to be weak, confused and lethargic. My 8 hour break was from pitocin and contractions, but not the magnesium. It was necessary in an effort to lower my blood pressure. Early the next morning they came to tell me we had to start the pitocin again. That natural birth a distant memory, I begged for pain relief. They refused me an epidural until I dilated to 5 cm so every hour I got a shot of stadol that, while it didn’t relieve my pain, it sent me directly to sleep. Just before midnight the second day I finally dilated enough to get the epidural. They broke my water and attached a monitor to Abby’s head. The end was coming.

My epidural didn’t work. Twice they came back to re-position it and twice more it failed. Twelve more hours of contractions indescribable. At noon on April 13th I’d been stuck at 8 centimeters for 8 hours and a surgeon came to see me. He told me I’d never deliver a baby naturally and I needed to have a c-section. I’ll never forget what I said to him. “I don’t CARE as long as you take me and do it NOW!” An hour later, at 1:06 PM, Abby was born. I was happy because my pain was over. As bad as it is to admit it, my daughter’s very birth was overshadowed by the fact that my nearly 3 days of pain was finally over.

I spent the next 24 hours still on magnesium. When they turned it off, they seemed satisfied with my average pressures around 150/80-90. I told them this was still quite high for me. Then, I caught sight of myself in the mirror and didn’t recognize myself. My face was puffy and swollen. I’d just given birth, been through hell and back, so I thought maybe it was normal. I complained about my dizziness and got pain medicine, which exacerbated what I was already feeling. I shut up. No one was listening to me anyway.

On Saturday morning, we were discharged. The nurse who came to take my blood pressure placed the cuff on me and went about checking my temperature. When the machine beeped she frowned, so I turned to look at the screen. My blood pressure was 175/100. She said “Here Momma, let your arm dangle off the bed and let’s see if we can get a better pressure than that.” It came back at 169/89. She wrote it on the chart and I was allowed to be discharged.

I was unprepared for a hospital stay so when I got out I had no extra clothing. I had to wear home what I’d worn to my last appointment. Except, it didn’t fit. I wore it 6 days before, 37 weeks pregnant and I couldn’t even pull the pants up my hips. There were so many warning signs.

If the hospital was hard, home was impossible. I had to do everything for the baby myself. The day I got home I spent three hours at the stove sterilizing bottles. By day two, I could no longer wear shoes. Day three came the unrelenting migraine. Each day I felt exponentially worse than the day before. On the fifth day I had to take Abby to her first pediatrician visit. He told me I needed to go home and get into bed, that I looked like death. Little did we know…

On our way home we ended up stopping at my sisters. She had a baby 5 weeks before so we wanted to visit for a bit before going home. We’d been out for quite a while and I was tired. As I sat there I began to lose my sense of time and apparently became disoriented. The world spun around me and I couldn’t get my arms and legs to move when I wanted them to. My head pounded with each quickened beat of my heart. I felt like I was in a tunnel, at the very farthest end. I remember someone saying they were calling 911. The EMTs who came couldn’t get an accurate blood pressure on me. It was that high. I was having a stroke.

Had I not been with my family, I’d have died at home with my baby. I’d have died a completely preventable death due to medical neglect. I should have never been released from the hospital in the first place. My doctor would contact the doctor who discharged me and tell him that I had developed post partum preeclampsia and, eventually, ecclampsia, and that his neglect played a part in it. I was just glad to be alive.

For the five days I was home my baby wasn’t a joy to me but a burden. I couldn’t care for myself and here I was trying to care for this needy, colicky newborn alone. I didn’t bond with her until after my 10 day hospital stay. I didn’t have the energy, the life, in me.

When I was released this time I needed clothes 6 sizes smaller. I lost 60 pounds in 10 days.

I’m lucky to be alive today. I’m fortunate. Preeclampsia is scary. It is vengeful and diabolical. Preeclampsia takes the lives of women and their babies every. single. day. And not just in third world countries. Right here in the United States.

There is no cure and doctors still don’t know exactly why it happens. For the majority of women, delivery of the baby cures preeclampsia. For some women, like me, this is not always the case. We know that it seems to run in families and that there are certain risk factors. The idea that my daughter could one day fight this silent killer terrifies me.

My wish is for every woman to know the risk factors and signs and symptoms of preeclampsia. If you don’t feel well, speak up. I was told with my second preeclampsia baby that 21 weeks was “too early” to begin seeing signs. Four weeks later my son was born. Remember when Kim Kardashian was pregnant with her first baby and she was ridiculed for gaining too much and being fat? She had preeclampsia. It can affect anyone. It doesn’t discriminate.

May is preeclampsia awareness month, we should all share our preeclampsia stories and bring awareness to something that too often goes overlooked and unspoken.

Your story could save a life.

A Year’s Fears- How Life Has Changed a Year After Diagnosis

A year ago this week we were waiting on MRI results for our 14 month old son. In the throes of Spring Break, our days had grown busier and longer than the typical weekdays that were ruled by the routines of homework, bath, and bedtime. I had all but forgotten about the MRI when my phone began to ring, a caller that in a glace I recognized as Texas Children’s Hospital. I can remember so many of the small, acute details about that day because for a brief moment of it time stood still. Even now my mind returns to that ratty t-shirt I was wearing with the stain on the shoulder and the Spongebob theme song on the TV. It was the soundtrack to which I found out my son had a brain malformation.

On that day a year ago I feared most that Avery would not progress. That he would not accomplish the things his father and I dreamed of from the moment we knew he was coming. If I am being completely transparent, I even feared he would never be perceived as “normal.” I, in all my rationality and acceptance, was worried about normal.

When you are told that your child’s brain formed abnormally in the womb, it crushes you. In our case, a routine MRI to check on a brain bleed he had suffered during his premature birth led to the unexpected diagnosis. Somehow missed during his 16 weeks in the NICU, Avery was born with excessive folds in the perisylvian region on the right side of his brain. I had never heard the term Polymicrogyria before that afternoon when time stood still. Even now, medical professionals will often turn their heads to the side and request “can you spell that?” when I rattle it off in his list of diagnoses. In the beginning, the fear was worse because the term itself was so foreign to me. How can you be brave in the face of something you know nothing about?

Arick, Avery’s father, and I did not talk much that afternoon. There was no small talk, no conversation about our days. The gravity of Avery’s diagnosis hung between us like a wall. We sat in relative silence together making the calls to loved ones to let them know the news. We knew enough to explain polymicrogyria but beyond that, beyond describing what his brain looked like…we knew nothing. So we Googled. And we cried. As we turned out the lights I promised Arick I would stop Googling. Our fear that night was palpable. Sometimes, it still is.

It is only with the clarity of time, of a year fast forwarded, that I can recognize how wrong I was. In my moment of weakness I let myself doubt my son. My son who fought for his very life when he weighed just 1 lb 3 ounces at birth, my son who’s survived things I would say I cannot imagine but I can because I was there. I feared he wouldn’t progress. I thought he would never understand me or be able to communicate effectively. Last week, I asked him if he was ready to go to bed. He looked at me, shook his head emphatically and said “NO night-night!” So, naturally, we stayed up.

Our dreams for him are still very much alive. The truth is, our dreams for him changed the moment he was born. “I hope he’s healthy” became “I hope he lives through the night.” Arick’s dream to coach his son’s football team became a prayer that he was physically able to play a sport. We were forced to instantly reevaluate our child’s future and make changes accordingly.

If there’s one thing we know about Avery, it is that he will accomplish great things. At 17 months he sat up and I cried heavy, burdened tears because I thought he never would. Within weeks he could army crawl like he was made for it. The first time he looked at me and said “mama” a piece of my heart that was broken by fear mended. At 28 months old now, he is trying to walk. I had this vision of my disabled child who would never be anything more than my disabled child. Avery is so much more. He is bright, beautiful and loving. He has polymicrogyria, cerebral palsy and so many other diagnoses. But those diagnoses do not make him. They are simply small fractions of who he is.

What has changed the most since his diagnosis? Me. I am happier because I get to spend each day watching my son grow and learn. I get to teach him and see his eyes light up when he gets it. I am here to see him fall and struggle with a left hand that simply will not work. I am grateful for even those sad moments because I recognize how different our lives could be. I know how debilitating that fear was.

I know that we will always fear the future for Avery. There will never be a time when we sleep deep, restful sleep. We will constantly question if, when and how he will be able to so something. Each day will be a new beginning though; each day a blank canvas for Avery to paint. He will paint it like only he can. He will paint it with progress. He will paint it with each feat he accomplishes. My son’s life will be a masterpiece.

He may not be normal to another family but he’s our normal. He was meant for us, and we are so blessed to have him. Polymicrogyria, cerebral palsy, fear and all.

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Avery recently while hospitalized for RSV.

Dear NICU Nurse

There was a time when I didn’t know you. A time of ignorance, when I didn’t know what went on behind those double doors where your work is done. See, my vision of my child’s first days never involved neonatologists, isolettes, and a weight measured not in pounds and ounces but in grams. You weren’t in those visions, either, so in the beginning you’re a terrifying reminder of how wrong my baby’s birth has gone. It isn’t you I don’t want to accept, though. It’s the crumbling of my hopes and dreams that causes my fear. The unknown and unsure. The almost indescribable moment when reality slides into something you’ve seen in a movie. Accepting you meant it was real; it meant that my ignorance was over. Awakened, I watched you keep vigil over my tiny son…all 540 grams of him…and love him. I would soon begin to understand how badly I needed you.

It felt like an eternity before I got to see my son. Arick would place me carefully into a wheelchair, hang my pain pump on the IV pole and slowly he’d wheel me to the double doors where the tiniest, most fragile patients were housed. In his first day as a father he’d become an expert at the only two things he could control: calling you every 15 minutes to check on Avery and scrubbing in and standing helplessly at his bedside. That first time I set eyes on all of him you soon came to tenderly change his diaper, no bigger than a packet of gum. His little corner was dim but for the single light shining down on him, illuminating your hands as you then worked to take his temperature. I’d never seen anything so delicate as either my son or your hands as you touched him. Your words would bring me the first comfort I’d feel in nearly a day. He was stable and breathing 21% oxygen. It was you who explained to me that night what room oxygen, TPN, the vent, the six IV pumps and all of the other overwhelming things meant. We stayed for a while- I was weak and still very sick- and you were there with us until we left. It wasn’t until I was back in my bed in my own room that I realized your only patient might have been Avery. I was stricken with the thought that you were given the unlucky job of watching, and waiting, to see if he’d survive his first night in this harsh world.

Over the course of Avery’s four month stay I feel that I witnessed the very same thing occur before my eyes with other babies. I saw you, worn, the concern evident on your face. I watched you care for a baby like it was your own knowing that this child’s time might be coming to an end. It was in those moments that I realized how strong you were. How you can face every expectant families worst fears and still go on. You’ve been with families as they say goodbye to their precious child and the next day you’re back knowing you could be doing the same thing. I believe that during those four months I saw the scariest, most heart wrenching aspects of what it means to be a NICU nurse. I probably experienced a great deal of them first hand. But I know in my heart I’m wrong. I can’t imagine what those moments are like. I’m just glad that you were there for those families. I’m just glad you were there for US.

It was you who taught us how to feed our two pound baby. A daunting task, feeding this child was. You wrapped him tightly in two receiving blankets and showed us how to remove him from the isolette safely while attached to so many wires. You showed us how to get him to suck and how important supporting his chin was. You facilitated the very thing that saved him- eating. You knew he liked to sleep on his tummy if you wanted to step a foot from his isolette. There you’d bundle him, long legs tucked under him like a little frog. You taught us how to stimulate him to breathe when he forgot to and showed us how to read the monitors, especially how to recognize the false alarms. When we watched him stop breathing and almost lose his fight you sat with us nearly all night. You were there in the darkest moments, when fear outweighed all other emotions.

Then again, you were there for the good days, too. When he gained weight for the first time you wrote on his board in big bold print, 1 lb (giant 5) oz. We walked in and the first thing we noticed was that enthusiastic note. You took his tiny footprints on his one month birthday and created beautiful keepsakes for us. It was you who celebrated every single hurdle he jumped beside us. You cheered when he successfully transitioned to CPAP after five long weeks on the vent and participated in an epic photo shoot four weeks after that when he finally went onto the nasal cannula. It was you who gave us that knowing smile the first time we walked into level 2 to see our newly minted “feeder and grower.” And it was you, every single one of you, who came to us the night he went home to say goodbye. You told me to dry my tears. You said we’d do fine. I wondered how, why, you had so much faith in us. Now, I know how you knew we’d make it. It was because everything we knew we learned from you.

NICU nurse…
You held my baby before I did. You touched his thin red skin long before I could. You took mercy on me and let me hold him for the first time at 6 weeks old, still vented, knowing it was a burdensome task and that he might not tolerate it well. It was the only time I held him until a month later when he could be fed and it was the single most precious moment of my life thus far. You knew our sons cues, his likes and dislikes. Before I knew enough to know him, you already did. Each night we walked out of those doors and left a piece of ourselves there with you. We called at all hours of the night and you never got tired of telling us he was “just chillin’.” You cared for him like I know you would care for your own. Thank you will never suffice.

When I think of Avery’s early days, it is you who stands out because your presence was so strong. You saved our son. YOU were exactly what our family needed.

To the ladies and gentleman at Clear Lake Regional Medical Center NICU: Thank you for doing what only you could do. To the families of sick babies it means the world. It equates to their fears being eased, intimidating medical terms being understood and trust being built. You did all this, and so much more, for my family.

When you’re tired, weary from long hours of doing something that is intrinsically emotionally draining, think of us. And always realize how important you are. Know the difference you’re making each day and with every baby. Know the difference you made for Avery.

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