Early Bird Foundation, Inc. is quickly coming upon its FIRST birthday! In light of this special occasion, we thought it might be a good idea to use these next two months to re-introduce ourselves to you all and tell our own stories. Since our President is currently journeying the NICU for the second time, this month has been designated as mine.
My name is Lyndsey Lewis and I am the Vice-President and co-founder of Early Bird Foundation! I have been married to my best friend Alec for 4 years and in that time we’ve been blessed with four sweet children! Our first set of twins, Brynlee and Jessa, were born in April of 2015 and our second set of twins, Ian and Emory, were born in December of 2016.
My experience with the NICU was very different from a lot of the stories that we’ve shared so far. The differences among all the stories helps show the huge range of circumstances NICU families may find themselves experiencing once they find themselves at the beginning of a NICU journey. It may be expected or unexpected NICU time, it can be hours to a day to week to month long journeys, it can be a relatively uncomplicated stay to a stay where you feel like every step forward meets you with two steps backwards. However, no matter the path our different journeys in the NICU drag us down, there is one common theme that we all experience: the loss of precious time with our newborn babies.
I always say my NICU experience was relatively short, uncomplicated and ends sweet and for that I am forever grateful. It was, however, unexpected and undoubtedly one of the hardest times of my life and, to be honest, Im just now letting myself fully realize the huge impact it left on us.
Our second set of twins, Ian and Emory, were born at 37 weeks. After an attempted VBAC that ended in a csection, we found out that our daughter Emory Kay had undiagnosed intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) and was only 4 lbs compared to her brother’s 6 lbs 11 oz! Our first two daughters were little as twins tend to be but our Emory was tiny. Her small size warranted her a week long stay in the NICU at UK as a grower! She was, thankfully, perfectly healthy otherwise.
For daddy and I, as thankful as we were that she was healthy, we were heartbroken at what this NICU stay meant for us. Our hospital stay and subsequent first days home didn’t consist of snuggling our newborns, recovering from birth and getting acquainted with our new family of six. Because Ian couldn’t be in the NICU with his sister, it consisted of deciding between being in the room with Ian who I was nursing and being in the NICU with Emory attempting to nurse her, introducing Ian to his sisters without Emory, pumping for her for when I couldn’t be there, leaving her there and bringing her brother home, then finding caretakers for the three little ones we had at home so that we could still be with Emory during her care times at the hospital.
As we were weaving through the chaos of our seven day NICU journey, I don’t remember actually even realizing what was happening. It was all just a matter of getting through the next minute, the next hour, the next care time, the next weigh in and praying that soon they’d be telling us it was time to take our girl back to our room with us.
Even from the very beginning, I didn’t realize that we were beginning this journey. I remember them saying they were taking her to the NICU to check her out and, in my mind, she was coming right back like our older girls did. But she didn’t. And then it was twelve hours from that moment that I kissed her goodbye to the time that I first laid eyes on Emory again and held her for the first time.
Reflecting back on this part is hard. Twelve hours is a long time to be separated from your newborn baby you’ve carried for so long. There is so much I missed in those twelve hours. The first time her grandparents saw her. Her first diaper change. Her first bath. The first time she was fed. All her first littles cries. I wasn’t the first person to cuddle her or rock her or even dress her. In the grand scheme of things, those things I missed in those 12 hours and the countless hours I couldn’t be with her afterwards aren’t a big deal but those things are the little things, often taken for granted, that we lock away as precious memories. For me, there is a twelve hour void where memories with Emory Kay should be. You can ask any momma, thats tough to know.
The night before we brought Emory home was a tough one. We went to her 9pm care time hoping she would weigh enough that they would be ready to send her home. At weigh in, she didn’t quite make the cut and I just burst into tears. It was Christmas Eve Eve and we felt like we couldn’t face the holidays without her. We left the hospital that night feeling so defeated. Nothing had gone the way we imagined it would and we so desperately wanted to bring our girl home. It was not only tough on us but on our older girls who didn’t understand why we had already been gone so long and now kept leaving them again. We tried to mostly go to care times during their naps and after they’d gone to bed if we had help to stay with them. We also had Ian who couldn’t go to the NICU but who I also was nursing. We were just torn in so many directions and both of us were exhausted and grieving the loss of the postpartum period we had imagined. We just wanted our family together again. That night we sat in our driveway and cried together. we wiped our tears and we prayed together for our sweet girl to come home the next day in time for Christmas so we wouldn’t have to choose between being with her and being with our other children.
First thing the next morning when I woke to nurse Ian I called the NICU for an update. I said a quick prayer and dialed the number and asked to speak to Emory’s nurse. When I finally connected with her she told me that she had waited to record Emory’s weight until this morning and reweighed her and she had gained just enough through the night feedings for them to discharge her! It was our own little Christmas miracle! By 1 pm, we were all six in the same place for the very first time, just in time to celebrate the birth of our Savior!
My memories from our NICU journey still seem strange and far away, like maybe they weren’t even real. One of those dreams that you can vaguely remember, its just right there in the depths of your mind but you can’t really grasp the details. My baby wasn’t sick. She wasn’t fighting for her life. She was just away from me. Away from her twin brother, who she’d spent every moment from conception beside. Away from her daddy. Her family. And I didn’t even really understand what was happening or why. I don’t even know that anyone ever even explained to me why she was so small or what that might mean for her future or if there was anything else going on. Maybe they did but I definitely don’t remember it. I sometimes even have a hard time sharing my story as a NICU parent because it seems so small in comparison to so many stories. But that is not truth, truth is that the loneliness and the fear and the trauma of the NICU is evident in the littlest details of every story. Truth is that there is also a deep, strong love there as well. Truth is that the NICU changes you. It makes you both stronger and weaker at the same time and afterwards you’ll never be the same person you were before.
My short time with a child in the NICU and the challenges it posed for my family along with the emotional toll it took on my husband and I gave me a heart to help other families experiencing the same. Every story is different. Every story is important. I don’t want any momma or daddy to feel like they are alone in their struggles. Most importantly, I want every family to know the power and love of a Father who will walk with them every step of the way, regardless of the length or difficult of the path.
My prayers are that Early Bird Foundation allows us the opportunity to walk with these families and to offer them support in whatever area they need it most! I have already met some amazing people and built some incredible friendships and I look forward to meeting everyone the Lord will put in our paths, whether it be families who need our support or those who have a heart to help!