Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Our Home Away From Home....

Hunter entered our lives very quickly...
and we thought Hannah's entrance was fast!!
What do we know?! ;-)
I got off the phone with D, in our hotel room in Florida, just as Joey was getting out of the shower. I didn't know much but I told him what I did know.
Then I texted my mom....
"Just talked to D. Told me about a baby boy born at 30 weeks. Heart condition. Brain bleed. TINY. Breathing on his own. Needs a family ASAP. She thinks it might be us!"
Mom's reply...
"Duh! Of COURSE she does! When can you meet him?!"
My mom's always had an amazing intuition... and an excellent use of the word 'duh' :-)
We got in the car, called Joey's mom and asked her if she could make the trip with us the next day and help us with Hannah, got home, unpacked, packed, told Hannah we were going on a vacation with Ghee (Joey's mom), slept (or not), got back in the car, met Joey's mom on the side of the interstate, checked into our hotel late Sunday night, slept (or not), and woke up early Monday morning....
We were going to meet our son... or maybe not. Or maybe we were.
We didn't know.

All we knew was that we were there... in the same town as a sweet baby boy who needed a family.
And well, to be quite honest.... we needed our baby desperately, too.
A match made in Heaven, huh?!
We spent about 3 hours at the hospital in a haze... snuggling that sweet boy, learning all we could about him, talking to any doctor who walked by, crying with the nurses who had been his family for the past 3 weeks (women who would soon become my friends), and naming him... that took a while :-)
We had to leave.... to pry ourselves away from him.... so we could check OUT of one hotel and try to find another for that night. There was a convention in town and there were 'no rooms at the inns.' We didn't have a plan...

Just to be safe, we had packed enough to get us through about 6 days away from home.

Not 6 weeks away from home.

All we knew was that we had just met our baby boy; a baby boy who's future was uncertain, one who had been without his family for 3 weeks, one who was still so tiny and so sick.... and we would not leave until he could come with us.
On our way out of the hospital, one of their 2 social workers... 2 women who would later become my confidantes and friends... mentioned to us that she would try and get us in to the local Ronald McDonald House. There was almost always a wait-list but they gave priority to families who had to travel the greatest distance.... we were 6 hours from home and praying that that was far enough.
Now, I was familiar with Ronald McDonald Houses.... I volunteered at one with my church youth group in high school, I remember donating food one Thanksgiving, and I have read many many blogs from families of very sick children who had stayed at them...
But I never imagined we'd be one of those families.
We were.

We had a very sick child.

But we had him. And we would make it... we would more than make it.
We hotel hopped for 3 days with Hannah and Joey's mom until the RMD had a room for us.

(Hannah... at 10pm... checking in to our 3rd hotel)
That room became our home for the next 6 weeks.
We ate there.... the meals that volunteers made for us.
We slept there... showered there... made friends there.... and shared one of the hardest times of our lives with families who were going through the hardest time of their's.
We didn't have internet in our room... or TV... or ... anything, really.

Just us.

During the week, it was just me and Hannah... Joey came when he could but still had to work...
it was tough on everyone.
To make it worse... very few people knew where we were... or why.
We had literally packed up one night and never went back.
I ignored so many texts... and messages... and emails...and calls....
It was lonely.
And then I would get on the elevator with another Mama....

and I'd realize that I wasn't alone. I was surrounded by families who were all trying to hold it together but went to bed at night full of fear at what news they might wake up to.

Leaving your child in the NICU for any reason was scary... and leaving to get some sleep felt like the most selfish thing in the world, at times.
6 weeks in the RMH... only feet away from the hospital... from our baby boy.
Joey's mom stayed with us for a few days... she had disappeared with us, too.
My mom came for a week.
Hannah and I were on our own for a while. That was the hardest time for me... trying so desperately to enjoy every single moment with my oldest, with my first in her last few weeks as my only... and trying desperately to bond with my youngest, with my newest, who was still so sick.

Because we were in the middle of RSV and flu season, siblings under the age of 13 weren't allowed into the NICU.

It would be weeks before Hannah could meet her Baby Brother for the first time.


During the days when Hannah and I were alone at our home away from home, I had 2 hours each day when I could leave her at a Mom's Morning Out-type of program and be able to visit with Hunter... it was tough.
Joey eventually took Hannah to St. Louis where she stayed for 2 weeks with my family... she was spoiled and loved on and the center of attention for 2 full weeks... which was exactly what she needed. And it's exactly what I needed to know when I couldn't be the one spoiling her and loving on her.

Those were the 2 most lonely, depressing, awful weeks of my life.
My baby in the NICU. My older baby far away from me.

And my husband was packing up our house by himself because we would be moving as soon as Hunter was released from the hospital.

We needed to be in a city where we could be near all of Hunter's specialists.... the city Hannah was born in. They have the most cutting edge NICU and Children's Hospital and they were the only one's we wanted to be caring for our son. There was no other choice.

We had to move.

That's another story ;-)

The RMH was more of a blessing to us than I can describe. I will never forget the families we met there... many whom we continue to keep in touch with. No matter how scary the day was, no matter what happened in our little NICU room, no matter what information the doctor's gave us (good or bad), no matter what.... every time we walked in those doors, we looked into dozens of faces that shared our fear and excitement and desperation and joy and stress and relief... it just depended on the day. We were all in different seats on the same boat.

If you would like to bless a family this Thanksgiving or Christmas, please consider looking up your local RMH... make a meal, put together a game or movie night, donate toys for siblings of those sick babies, or clothes or diapers or... anything. The families living within those walls are scared and desperate, their babies are sick, and their families are being pulled apart by distance in one of the most difficult and uncertain times of their lives... you won't find anyone who would appreciate you more.

And you would become one of the most important parts of their story.

(Hannah and Nee (my mom) were the grand-prize winners at BINGO-night ;-))

(Coming up next.... Hunter's life itself is Miracle #1 but we have yet to tell you about Miracle #2!)


  1. You have me on the edge of my seat with this story. I think Hollywood needs to do a movie on your story...at least a Lifetime movie! :-) I am intrigued about Miracle #2 and can't wait to hear more about baby Hunter!

  2. I'm enjoying reading all about your amazing journey to Hunter! Can't wait for the next update! HUGS!!


We love to hear your thoughts, but if you leave one please own it and leave a name with your comment :-)