By Jack Hourigan
When Julie Robertson unexpectedly delivered her twins at 30 weeks, all dreams of a picturesque birth were shattered. Her daughters, Annabelle and Delilah, were instantly rushed away in the arms of the medical team. As difficult as that moment was for Julie, nothing could have prepared her for the day she would leave her babies behind in the NICU.
“I can literally still see them in the incubators. Leaving without them went against everything…I’m supposed to be there with them. This is not right.”, Robertson says.
Suddenly, her daughters were a 2.5-hour drive away from home. While recovering from an emergency c-section, Julie was unable to drive. Although her husband Dean worked full time, he drove her to the hospital and back home every day of the week.
On weekends the couple stayed in a hotel near the hospital until they were transferred to a hospital closer to home. At the new location, Julie stayed in a special house for families of NICU patients, five minutes away from the hospital.
“I vowed to stay there until my babies’ graduation from the NICU.”, confides Julie.
A neonatal intensive care stay brings a myriad of unexpected sights, sounds and emotions for parents. Tubes, beeping monitors, oxygen prongs, blue lights, goggles, IV drips, PIC lines, and little hands tugging at cords. And with each grimace on their tiny faces often comes an overwhelming wave of guilt.
With all that to manage, families must maintain life and often continue to work outside of the hospital walls. Even with medical coverage in Canada, having a family member in critical care is financially challenging. Whenever possible, support from family and friends for parking, travel, meals and housing is crucial, and physical and emotional perseverance becomes essential.
“Today, I get to hold my daughters, in the comfort of my home. They are healthy and thriving. We are so fortunate. I could not even imagine enduring NICU life and not getting to bring my baby home afterwards. This is why I started The Annabelle and Delilah Foundation.”
Like Julie, many preemie parents can experience NICU flashbacks long after baby’s discharge. It can be a challenging time where emotional, professional and peer support is needed to process the past. The post NICU period can also be a time for much reflection, gratitude and healing. And for some, like Julie, it provides an opportunity to give back.
The Annabelle and Delilah Foundation will be offering their first grant to NICU Families in need in 2020. The aim is to create an annual grant to help a family deal with expenses incurred in the NICU. The foundation is funded through family run events, parties and selling art.
A direct link to the grant application is available at: https://www.jcart.online/nicu-family-grant
The girls are now one year old corrected and according to Julie, they are not just walking, but running!
“The care our family received was heartwarming and humbling in the midst of the most difficult time we have ever faced. Without the care of the NICU, my daughters would not be here today. They are super funny, smart and so playful!”, Julie reports.
As Julie describes her young girls, Annabelle and Delilah, you can hear pure love and joy in her voice. You can also hear the strength of a woman who persisted down a challenging path and remains determined to help those who will travel in her footsteps. Her perseverance is a remarkable trait that she clearly passed along to her amazing daughters.
For more information on this grant and their programs, please visit: https://www.jcart.online/theannabelleanddelilahfoundation
Nurtured in the NICU stories are created by the Canadian Premature Babies Foundation to highlight the wonderful work of doctors, nurses, and parent volunteers in Canada’s NICUs. For more information or if you would like to share an initiative happening in your NICU, please send us an email at email@example.com.