Our Beautiful Pound of Butter

img_1125When your child weighs about the same as a pound of butter, there are so many unknowns, it’s more than just scary, it is terrifying. On December 22nd, my daughter Kazlyn was born at 24-weeks. She weighed 1 lb. 1 oz.

Expecting my first child was very exciting. It was during one of my regular appointments that my doctor discovered my blood pressure reading was a bit elevated. I was running late that day and high blood pressure was not in my history, so I wasn’t really concerned. However, my doctor was. When the follow-up test results came in, red flags were raised and I was immediately sent to Sisters Hospital (Sisters of Charity Hospital of Buffalo) for some additional tests.

We live in Portland, NY about an hour and a half drive away from Buffalo, so when I arrived at Sisters my blood pressure was very elevated and continued to rise throughout the morning. By 11:00am that day I was admitted to the hospital. The next two hours were like a blurry bad dream for me and my boyfriend Nick. I was being asked all sorts of questions about my heath history. I was so scared. But scared cannot describe what was going through my mind when less than two hours later, the doctors said my baby was in distress and an immediate emergency C-section was necessary.

img_1106_1495465710033When I woke up the response to my first question was, yes your daughter is alive, but intubated in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). I really needed to see Kazlyn to reassure myself that she was ok, but was unable to leave my bed for a day; it was a very, very long day. Nick and I spent the next 24-hours comforting each other and praying. Seven days later, I held my daughter for the first time; and, “skin to skin” for one hour each day after that.

When I was getting ready to be discharged from the hospital, we really didn’t know what to do. We lived far away, Kazlyn was facing a long journey of recovery and we needed to be close to our daughter. That’s when a social worker told us about the Buffalo Ronald McDonald House.

When we drove up to the Ronald McDonald House, I looked at Nick and it was like “Wow, this is an elegant Victorian home”. When we walked in the front door, it was even more beautiful. It was decorated for Christmas and very homey. Even more important was that it was so welcoming, everyone was really nice. We were taken on a tour and I’ll never forget being told that “While you are here this is your home”. The sense of relief I felt was indescribable.

resized_20170106_164124Staying at the House and interacting with the other families was a great source of comfort. I didn’t feel so alone. Sharing our stories really helped me cope and gave me hope that my baby would be able to go home too. We gained strength together.

Our favorite part of the house was the sports lounge downstairs and the bubble hockey game. We played that game every day. It became a stress releaser for me and Nick, a time when we were able to experience emotions other than sadness, fear and being upset. The cozy kitchen booth was our preferred dinner spot where we would discuss the day and Kazlyn’s progress. At the end of each day at the hospital, the Ronald McDonald House was always there with open arms.

resized_20170512_123304_1495465675376On April 8th at 5lbs. 12ozs., Kazlyn was discharged and we could finally take her home. It was amazing; I experienced feelings of excitement, relief, and joy all rolled up into one. Things were going in the right direction!  We could now really start our family together, bond together, and hold our baby all day long!

But I don’t think I will ever be able to describe the feelings I had 2 ½ weeks later when during the Cardiologist and Optometrist follow-up appointments, we were told “See you next year!” We left the hospital and immediately drove to the Buffalo Ronald McDonald House to share our wonderful news with the really wonderful people there!

– Alicia Nicolas