As I was lifted into an ambulance at seven months pregnant, I couldn’t help but recall my own childhood. Like most others, I dreamed of riding in a police car or ambulance. I hoped one day I would be able to explore where the EMT’s sat or maybe even hear the sirens blare. Hearing the sirens in real life was far less exciting, in fact it was terrifying. A routine ultrasound had revealed a major loss of fluids and a lack of movement from my baby. I wondered if someday she’d be mesmerized by emergency vehicles too.
The hour long ride to the hospital that was better equipped to handle a premature birth only gave me more time to worry. By the time I arrived at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital I had convinced myself that I was going to give birth that day. That didn’t happen though. I stayed there on bedrest under close monitoring. Nearly three weeks went past before they couldn’t hold off inducing me any longer. They did one last ultrasound before induction that estimated my daughter, who we had already named Kiera, at a little over five pounds. After 28 hours of labor Kiera was born at three pounds and five ounces.
Her brain was properly developed and she could breathe independently. Still, she needed to reach a healthy weight and she had to be capable of eating all of her meals independently before they could consider sending her home. They inserted a feeding tube and placed her securely in the incubator, while I prepared for the long journey ahead of us. I healed quickly and was released from the hospital, Kiera, on the other hand, would need to stay much longer. Our home was approximately an hour from this hospital and making that trip multiple times a day was not only illogical, but it would have drained our savings account when we had more urgent things we needed to buy for her.
It was overwhelming, Kiera had to be fed every three hours and while the nurses in the NICU were more than happy to help I felt that my job as her mother was to feed her. I wanted to avoid treating her any differently than a full-term baby would be treated. After considering countless possibilities and potential schedules I realized that this would be impossible. I vented to a nurse at the hospital and she told me that there was a Ronald McDonald House within walking distance from the hospital and that parents who could not travel, but had children admitted into the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital could stay there for a nominal donation.
I took a deep breath before walking through the doors of the Ronald McDonald house; I was nervous and unsure of what to expect. I was greeted at the front desk with a friendly smile and a tour of the house. They showed me the kitchen, bathrooms, library, and gaming room before showing me to my room. Around Dinner time I came out for dinner and they had a meal donated by a local restaurant. They encouraged me to eat all of my meals with them to save money. Furthermore, they let me know that I was free to store milk for Kiera in a separate private fridge as well as use the hospital grade pumps they had on site. They gave me travel size toiletries and told me that I need not worry about trivial things, just concentrate on getting my daughter home. That night I slept the best I had in weeks and was able to wake up early to walk to the hospital for Kiera’s morning feeding.
Throughout the following weeks many families passed through the same doors I did. I had the chance to sit down and talk with many of them. Some of them were from out of state and had a child that needed a treatment only this hospital could provide. Others only needed to stay for a weekend, some even had kids who had to move themselves up here while a sibling was hospitalized. Something every family agreed on though, was that Ronald McDonald House Charities were supporting us not only financially but emotionally.
When Kiera was finally able to leave I was ecstatic, but still packing up my room was bittersweet. I had made so many connections and shared intimate stories with so many people. I was so grateful and vowed to try to pay it forward to the charity in the future. I discovered that the charity’s personal website had many volunteer opportunities and Amazon would donate a percent of your purchases if you use Amazon Smile. I don’t think I can ever pay them back for the support they provided me, but I hope that every bit truly does help.
If you are interested in donating to the Ronald McDonald House you can do so here: RMHC