I was admitted to the antepartum unit at Beaumont, Royal Oak in mid-December 2013 where I stayed (aside from a brief few days at home in January) until I gave birth to my daughter via cesarean section on Feb. 12, 2014. She was 10 1/2 weeks premature, weighed 3 pounds 7 oz., and spent 41 days in the NICU.
My first experience with the Parenting Program was two days after Grace was born. It was Valentine’s Day and I made the slow trek from the 6th floor down to the 5 th to visit my baby. I was physically and emotionally exhausted from being in the hospital for so long and feeling rather sad. Friends and family are unsure how to react when the fate of your newborn is unknown, so the normal, hearty congratulations and excitement aren’t as forthcoming. When I arrived to her room, it was decorated! There were construction paper hearts and decorations with her name on it. This may seem like such a small thing to care about so much, but it was very uplifting. It felt wonderful to know that other people were acknowledging that my baby was worth celebrating. Over the course of our stay, the regularly delivered small and thoughtful gifts were instrumental in keeping my spirits up.
My next experience consisted of meeting and getting to know Michelle Enerson, NICU Coordinator with the Parenting Program. She reached out to me shortly after Grace arrived in the NICU and I was very impressed with her warm, friendly demeanor. I was ecstatic to discover that there were classes held right in the NICU for new parents to learn about different topics regarding parenting and child care. I had planned to take classes before giving birth and was very disappointed when I couldn’t. Michelle taught me safe sleep practices, how to bathe my baby, and basic CPR among other things. The best part was that I didn’t have to leave the NICU. I got to take a break from the worry without feeling guilty and felt like I was actively doing something to help. She also put me in touch with Melanie, a volunteer, who quickly became a lifeline for me as someone who went through the NICU experience herself and could relate to how I was feeling. It was a huge help to see a light at the end of the tunnel. We communicated through phone calls, email and text, which was perfect. We are still in contact and recently met in person for the first time. There was a lot of hugging. It was a wonderful experience.
I also joined an evening parenting group with my husband. We were put in a group with babies around Grace’s adjusted age so she was at the same developmental stages as the others. My husband especially benefited from our group as he didn’t have any other Dad friends and was feeling rather isolated. It’s great have so many other parents to bounce ideas off of or to commiserate with on the peculiarities of raising children! Our leaders, Emily Swan Detrisac and her husband, Bill, were fantastic — very approachable and kind. We really enjoyed the topics and they boosted our confidence in many of our parental decisions. Our group made plans to get together after our last topic date, too.
I’m so grateful for the wonderful experiences that I had with the Parenting Program. Being a new parent can be challenging, frightening and isolating. Through the Parenting Program I gained knowledge, confidence and lasting friendships. I’m looking forward to becoming a volunteer and giving back to new parents.
– Sara Kuhn is a Parenting Program participant and new volunteer.