Hi friends. I know I always say I am going to get better about coming to this computer and writing my guts out, but then I get distracted and busy and living this crazy life- so lets just drop that expectation and leave it as I'll show up when I do. You know, on my own time-like with everything else.
Lots has been happening. Some good. Some sad. Big changes and small changes. Some I am ready to share, others I'm still holding on to. There is one thing in particular that I need to talk about:
Many of you saw my posts about my NICU volunteering last week and were so gracious and kind and loving with support. It always amazes me to see how many people are on my team in life. I need to write about this whole experience because I am forcing everyone I come in contact with to hear about it so clearly it needs to come out. Let me start from the top with this because many don't know the extent of the WHY behind my volunteering. If you know me or have read this blog in the last five years, you know that Hurley Medical Center's NICU team, along with the Man upstairs, saved my son. They didn't just save him one time. They saved him over and over and over again, day after day, until he didn't need saving anymore. As a Mother, who never left that baby's side, watching in horror- I know that it is a Miracle that Easton Clark is alive today. By "Miracle" I mean that all the right hands, and all the right decisions, and all the right brains and all of the refusal to give up on the staff's end and the Will to live on Eastons's end along with all the answered prayers brought that baby back from the brink of death time and time again. I could not just take that baby home and not forever leave a piece of my heart inside that Intensive Care Unit. The lowest of lows and the highest of highs took place behind those doors. "Thank you" was not even close to appropriate for what they had done. As I cared for my little miracle baby, I couldn't look at him without seeing the faces of the people that helped him survive. I had to do something. I had to give back. Creating and executing "Team Easton Gives Back" has been an amazing experience. We've raised over $100,000 and we are not done yet. Handing over the checks to help keep the Unit up to date and provide education for the staff is wonderful but something still was missing for me. You see, I hadn't healed from my trauma behind those doors. I LOVE everybody that works inside that NICU but I couldn't even walk through the doors. The air was too thick, the walls were caving in, the doors that were locked didn't seem like they would open and I simply couldn't get past those feelings. Sure, I could go the rest of my life and never go back to that place again since I'm done having kids but thats not who I am. I don't want fear to hold me back or to win in my life. I like to challenge the hard things but this was one that I just couldn't do. When the NICU Cuddler program was announced- I decided that day that it was my opportunity. It was my chance to give back in a non-monetary way. It was a chance at healing myself and helping others- all in the same moments. I told my girlfriend who works there that I was signing up. She said to me, "That's great but if you can't even walk through the doors, how are you going to do this?" You know what my autopilot answer was? "I'm don't know but I'm gonna rise up and walk right in there." And, I did.
The first part that happened in training was the tour. I was scared to death the whole drive there. Once I got there, I was greeted by a familiar face and immediately thought I might be OK. The doors opened and (thank you, God) there were so many more familiar faces. Lots of hugs and I genuinely felt myself becoming OK in those first few moments. There are a couple spots that I am going to tell you that I will NOT EVER visit. First, the X-ray room. Allow me to give you a visual. This room is an interior room. No windows. Shaped like a rectangle. Insanely small. Zero ventilation and Im not 100% sure but I really feel as though they turn off all vents and suck all the air out of that space- I could be wrong but I don't think so. There are two computers. They use these two screens to pull up images of your baby. In my case, they were used to show me Easton's horrific lungs. In this room I was told that I should pray. Thats about it. Thats about as much hope as they had. Prayers. Inside this room, I learned just how sick my boy was and I learned that they didn't really think he would make it. I wish it ended there. Day in and day out, I was taken into this room to be shown just how much my son was NOT improving. It was dreadful. So, needless to say- I see no reason to revisit that space. The second spot is the parent overnight room. This is where we stayed for many, many nights. This is where I was supposed to "rest." It has a shower, a refrigerator, a TV, a couch that turns into a bed. The deepest sobs and the scariest conversations happened inside that room. I know where the cracks in the walls are. I know where all the outlets are. I know exactly what every part of that room looks like. I was very grateful for that space, however I know my heart isn't ready to see it again. Every space in the NICU has a memory attached to it. I'm working through that but let me tell you about my first day!
We must remember that the NICU has to be a judgement free zone. We all know I'm judging but we are going to pretend I'm not. Its a tough place. I think its one of the most important places in the world. Here's why: If you don't make it out of the NICU- then you don't even get a shot at life. This place is only for newborns. These babies are fresh out of the womb and they have never seen the light of day. These babies are full of opportunity- just waiting. So, my first day. As I walked in and scanned the area looking for a baby that was alone and to be held- my mind was getting carried away with my own memories. I had to refocus and remember why I was there. I held a few babies but there is one in particular I'm going to tell you about. It was a little girl with the sweetest name. She was all alone in her crib. She was four days old. Every time I walked by her she was awake but she wasn't crying. After passing her twice, I decided I had to hold her. This is where the no judging comes in. When I had my two older kids that were healthy- I was so selfish with them. Family and friends all wanted to hold them at four days old and I just wanted to hold them myself. I often used the excuse that I had to feed them just to steal them away. I felt they were growing and changing every second and I didn't want to miss it. Here I was, holding someone else baby at four days old. I don't know a thing about this baby other than the fact that she was in a crib alone at four days old. I feel it should be like a law of life that you are being held and loved at four days. As I held her I found myself wondering where in the hell her Mother was and if she had a Dad. I wondered what was going to happen to her after she was discharged. I wondered if she was even going home to a family. And then I stopped. I turned it off. I just loved her. I don't know this baby and I sat with her for almost an hour and poured as much love as I could into her. I decided in those moments of my brain wandering and judging that I wasn't focusing on her. I have no idea what a baby can feel or realize at that age but I do know that I loved her as hard as I could for as long as I could. Her little body was so relaxed in my arms and I hated to put her down to go get my own kids off the school bus. I don't know if she will be there next week. I will probably never see her again in my life but I won't ever forget her. I can't wait to go back. I learned my biggest lesson on day one. I'm only there to love. And, thats exactly what I intend to do. My heart is back inside the NICU, this time - on the other side. I'm so grateful for the opportunity. Truly so grateful.
I have some other cool news…
Children's Miracle Networks #1 National sponsor is Speedway. Each year they have a child represent the CMN. This year, Easton was asked to be it! Sometime this summer you will begin to see his cute little face wherever you go! He is over the moon excited to start seeing his face plastered around town and we are so excited for the opportunity to represent the Children's Miracle Network. Such an honor!
Thanks for listening!