Updated: Jan 31, 2021
It would have been difficult to maintain our sanity during our NICU experience if not for God and our family. While I was on hospital bed rest, my mother stayed with me during the week and then traveled back to her home two hours away to spend the weekend with my father. She did this every week without complaint. My sister also traveled six hours from North Carolina to stay with me during that time, leaving her husband and daughter for a week. In addition, my aunt visited me and checked in regularly. One of my uncles even stopped in while he was visiting from our hometown and brought a cousin along to sit with me so I wouldn’t have to stare at the four walls while my husband was at work. My in-laws called me on a regular basis and provided words of encouragement. Love and support were the fabric of my days in the hospital.
When we brought Laila home, we knew we would need help; however, I don’t think we realized just how much. My mother volunteered to stay with us for a while until we could establish a routine as I pumped and traveled back and forth to the hospital. I remember the smell of breakfast on my first morning home from the hospital. I was sore from my cesarean and couldn’t move around freely. It was a relief to know that our basic needs were still being provided for while I was unable to do so. She also drove me to and from the hospital to visit Laila in the NICU for the first few weeks after she was born. She accompanied me to doctor’s visits for Laila, even sitting in the back seat to watch Laila as I drove. My mother’s help was invaluable during a time that I needed it the most.
Our families also served as a source of advice as we navigated the unfamiliar waters of parenting. Although having a premature infant was not a shared experience with any other family members, it was comforting to have their support. I have never felt alone from the time that I was placed on bed rest until the present day. It’s wonderful to have positive role models in Laila’s life as she grows. There are times when I need to enlist help with childcare and I can call on family to help. Just recently, I had to return to work after two months off due to COVID. I was able to call my aunt who came over to watch Laila for a few days until I could secure permanent childcare. During summer break last year, my parents and in-laws each watched Laila for one week. They were happy to have her and took great care of her during her stay.
I have been blessed with supportive loved ones that have been present for Laila from the very beginning. They have shaped my view of what it means to love unconditionally without expecting anything in return. Each one plays an instrumental role in contributing to her overall emotional and spiritual growth. Their example will leave an imprint on her life for years to come. As Laila grows, it is my hope that she recognizes the gift of family and the responsibility she has to continue this legacy of love.