Clara and her husband, Harry, were delighted to learn of Clara’s pregnancy with her first baby. She had a peaceful first trimester, until twenty weeks into her pregnancy when the doctors told her that she had preeclampsia. In a matter of moments, Clara’s pregnancy experience changed.
Clara was due on November 17th, which is ironically World Prematurity Day. She never imagined that 3 months earlier, on August 18th she would deliver her baby boy, Emryn, weighing only 1.4 lbs. Clara was immediately met with fear. Emryn experienced a few days of the preemie honeymoon period when things seem to be going well. Days after birth, however, Emryn’s medical condition deteriorated. Emryn battled bronchopulmonary dysplasia, rickets, hypoglycemia and cholestasis.
What they call the NICU rollercoaster continued for Clara, as Emryn would take several steps forward in his progress and then more steps backward. This pattern continued, but every time his condition worsened Emryn would fight his way through the challenges. Emryn was tiny, but he was mighty.
Meanwhile, like most mothers, Clara needed to return to work, despite her baby’s fight for his life in the hospital. Adding to Clara’s challenge, NICU visiting hours were reduced as a COVID-19 precaution to merely 9AM-12PM and 3-6PM each day. Clara raced out of work every afternoon at 4:30PM to head to the hospital, desperate to spend what little time she could with Emryn. ICU baby helped offset Clara’s transportation costs, provided her with essential items to help care for Emryn and PPE to protect herself from the virus.
As November began, Emryn had made such significant progress, doctors thought he might be discharged to be home for Thanksgiving. Clara was overjoyed and prayed to have her baby home for the holiday. Emryn once again met a medical set-back and Clara received the crushing news that Emryn would not be going home for Thanksgiving. Doctors told her that he needed 6 more weeks of NICU care.
A rush of emotions hit Clara and her husband like a wall – desperation, disappointment, frustration and utter despair. Clara fought through the news with vigor and continued her devoted afternoon visits, week-after-week.
On December 17, Clara finally received the call she had been waiting for … Emryn was ready for discharge. Her wish came true… he would be home for Christmas.
Clara’s words of encouragement for other NICU parents are “it may be a hard and never ending journey, but this is not forever. We are living a moment, to cherish the rest.” Clara must know that these actually are words of wisdom for us all right now.