On November 29, 2018 my husband, Brad, and I were excited and nervous as we drove to our anatomy scan appointment to get a closer look at our identical twin daughters. The pregnancy had been uneventful so far and, with each girl having her own amniotic sac and placenta, we had the best case scenario for a twin pregnancy. Or so we thought. It was at that appointment that we learned I was already dilated to one centimeter at 23 weeks pregnant. In that moment everything changed. I was taken by ambulance from Passavant Hospital in Jacksonville to St. John’s Hospital in Springfield. Within minutes of arriving, I was started on medication to help slow labor and given steroid shots to help my babies grow stronger because a premature delivery was now imminent. Luckily the girls were not delivered that night, but I was told I would spend the rest of my pregnancy on hospital bed rest at St. John’s and that we would most likely have a lengthy NICU stay. We live an hour west of Springfield, so the thought of travel added to our many worries.
To help ease our fears during the two weeks I spent on bed rest, the nurses frequently mentioned the Ronald McDonald House and the amenities it would be able to provide us after the girls were born — a free place to stay nearby that included meals and a community to support us on our journey. As fate would have it, there was another family from our town staying at RMH after also having premature twins. They confirmed everything the nurses had been telling us.
Our daughters Hannah and Sadie were born in the early morning of Friday, December 14 at 25 weeks, weighing 1 pound 12 ounces and 1 pound 10 ounces. We were advised by the neonatology team to plan on a NICU stay until our due date of March 29. That afternoon we filled out the RMH paperwork and the next morning my husband went across the street to get the room that would become our home for the next three months. As hard as it was to leave the hospital without our girls and without knowing what the coming weeks would bring, it was reassuring to know we would be sleeping across the street and could be at the hospital quickly if something were to go wrong. We wouldn’t even have to drive because there was a free shuttle to the hospital offered 24 hours a day. Thankfully, our prayers were answered many times over, and both girls had uneventful NICU stays. They simply needed to grow to get strong enough to go home. We were discharged two weeks before our due date.
Hannah and Sadie spent 88 days in the NICU, which meant Mom and Dad spent 88 days at the Ronald McDonald House. It made a terrible situation tolerable and allowed us to focus our energies where they needed to be-with our girls. There was no driving back and forth when your mind was so clouded with other thoughts you couldn’t see straight. There was a hot meal provided every night and always leftovers when you were panicked about money and the hospital bills you knew were coming. There was always another family there who could relate to you, whether you wanted to talk about it or keep to yourself. And there was always an employee checking in to see how YOU were doing and what YOU needed. The day we checked out of the NICU and RMH was bittersweet. As excited and ready as we were to finally move back home, we were leaving behind a new family of sorts we are forever indebted to.
I am happy to report that Hannah and Sadie are thriving. They are meeting or are ahead all of their adjusted milestones. We are hopeful that there are no more hospital stays in our future, but it is comforting to know that we are welcome to stay at RMH if necessary.