"Knowing I was giving families hope, and comfort when they needed it most healed me in ways I didn’t know it could. "
-Krystal Roark, Division Coordinator
Project Sweet Peas - Greater Lafayette
When I speak of my NICU experience, sometimes I am brushed off.
Why? Because my NICU experience wasn’t a long one. It can make others uncomfortable.
My NICU experience ended after 8 days. It didn't end in the joyous day all NICU parents look forward to for us. It was the second time that week we were told our daughter had died.
Just 7 days earlier our oldest twin didn’t make it either.
We stood there in shock as we looked around at all the isolettes filled with babies. Our monitors were silent, the screens turned off.
It was like a bad dream looking down at the tiny, fragile, body of my daughter laying there. No tubes, no monitors, just her looking just like her sister did 7 days earlier.
They carefully wrapped her in a blanket and handed her to me. I rocked her and held her close feeling her skin grow colder. I used every ounce of my will to try and warm her again, but it didn’t happen. Nurses and doctors came in and talked to us about various things. I really don’t remember much, I was too busy trying to memorize every detail of her face and hands.
I just sat there and rocked her. Rocking, rocking, rocking.
When it was finally time, I placed her back in her isolette. I didn’t really know what else to do.
What was I to do? They don’t really prepare you for this, nothing does.
I kissed her for the last time, and my husband and I left holding each other up.
I spent days in a waking coma trying to process things. Finally, I had to go through all the stuff from the hospital. All the gifts and other things sent to us.
As I was going through them, I found a green bag with Project Sweet Peas on it. At first, I had no idea what it was. As I opened it, I saw it was a memory box for our first born. It had a little hand mold in it of her hand, tiny diapers, a teddy bear with a Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Ribbon t-shirt on it, forget-me-not seeds, and so much more.
My eyes welled up and I began to sob.
It was beautiful.
I spent hours holding that teddy bear. It helped fill a gap in my arms. Pulling myself out of my funk, I decided I wanted to add some handmade items to future boxes. I began painting boxes, and filling bulbs with glitter and feathers, making PAIL ribbons. My husband would leave for work and come home and find me at the counter still painting. He didn’t mind though, it was the first thing that had gotten me out of bed in weeks.
Little did I know at the time, that the painting and crafting was slowing helping to heal my heart.
I eventually found a card inside the box and contacted the organization that provided the box to our local hospital, Project Sweet Peas. I was put into touch with Sarah. We talked about love and loss and how healing giving back to the community could be. I talked about our first born’s box and how much it meant to me. We met in the parking lot of the mall, I wanted to drop off the things I had made.
I didn't know why, but I was nervous. I had never met anyone else who had lost their only children before. I didn’t know what to say to her in person, even though, I too had lost all my living children at the time.
It’s ok though, we really didn’t have to do much talking, I was crying mostly and we hugged a lot.
After I handed her the items I had made, she handed me a bag. I was surprised, inside was another memory box for our second born. It matched the other. My heart felt like it exploded. More tears and more hugs followed. It was that day, and through Sarah’s kindness, that I decided to become a volunteer with the organization. It was hard at first, delivering the NICU care packages and memory boxes, but I never wanted what happened to me to happen to anyone else.
Knowing I was giving families hope, and comfort when they needed it most healed me in ways I didn’t know it could.
It got me out of bed and helped me to continue my life. It gave me purpose again.
Every day I live my life, I live it for my daughters.
Every time I give back to the community, it is a tribute to their beautiful lives. As I give back, their spirits are lifted and remembered.
Almost 5 years have gone by now. I still give back and create those memories, and give hope to the families of my community. I’m no longer just a volunteer helper, I am the Division Coordinator of the very local division that gave me purpose again.
They may not know it, but they saved my life. I hope that what I have done, and continue to do, helps save someone else’s too.
Learn more about Krystal and Project Sweet Peas by visiting: projectsweetpeas.com/Greater-Lafayette.
From Mini to Moose is a unique company that was recently founded by two NICU moms who are trying to make a small difference throughout the NICU community. Inspired by the premature birth of our daughters we both had a strong desire to become more involved in helping other families within the NICU community. After throwing around the idea of forming an Etsy shop, centered around the needs of the NICU community, the idea of taking some of the special onesies that we would be creating into local NICUs was born. From Mini to Moose the Etsy shop soon became only one piece of the puzzle and “From Mini to Moose - Special Delivery" was born. In order for us to make this idea a reality we reached out to family, friends and others in the NICU community for support. The response was overwhelming to say the least and over the course of two months we have received the materials needed to create over 400 of these special NICU onesies .
In order for you to understand why we have a drive to make a difference in the NICU community you'd need to understand who we are. In college we were acquaintances who dated college roommates, and were in the same circle of friends. Fast forward a few years, we both married those same college roommates, and were expecting little girls! Samantha was expecting her first at the same time as I was expecting my second. In March of 2016 Samantha gave birth to her daughter Madison at 27 weeks. Maddie Moose as they called her only weighed a mere 1 pound 15 ounces, and would spend the next two plus months in the NICU. Ironically, a month later, I too found out my pregnancy was going to result in a premature birth and I gave birth to my daughter who we called Quinny Mini was born at just 28 weeks weighing a mere 1 pound 12 ounces.
During this stressful time period I had reached out to Sam with many questions about what to expect in the coming months, and she became a true confidant, and friend. We often talked about things going on in the NICU, and the emotional journey we were both on. When friends and family would ask how my daughter was and I would always say “good” because I just didn't have the energy to explain, yet when Sam asked I would tell her every detail about my day, knowing she was the only other person really understood.
Our First Delivery
The inspiration behind From Mini to Moose began around Mother's Day of this year. Mother's Day happened to be one of the holidays my daughter Quinn spent in the NICU, and I wanted to do something special for the Moms who would be spending time in Quinn’s NICU during that holiday this year. Sam and I often talked about preemie items she could include in her online Etsy shop, and as I often did I reached out to Sam for ideas of things that I could do. Sam had previously created a onesie for Quinn that said #preemiestrong, and somehow the idea of creating NICU inspired bodysuits was brought up. Sam was obviously on board with helping with the project and loved the idea of giving back to the NICU community.
That week she spent hours helping me create 22 onesies for Quinn’s NICU. After dropping off these onesies we both felt awesome about giving back to the NICU community, and couldn't shake the accomplished feeling that we had. We realized that this tiny gesture meant so much to other Moms going through a really difficult experience much like we had.
After our “Special Delivery” A few NICU Moms who received bodysuits reached out to us telling us how much these little onesie meant to them, and from that point on we knew needed to continue our Special Deliveries.
To date we have already completed our Mother’s Day Onesies, 4th of July onesies that encompassed three local NICUs, and have created the majority of beach themed onesies that will be needed for our August delivery. We have big plans for many more upcoming months throughout the year, and eventually we would like nothing more than to expand From Mini to Moose Special Delivery into the majority of NICU’s throughout the Tri-State Area.
We hope that through our monthly project Mini to Moose Special Delivery, that we will be supporting other NICU Moms in any way that we can, even if that means just bringing a smile to their face on special holidays.
Are you also interested in giving back? See our Facebook page for more information! where we donate custom onesies to the local NICUs (for more information visit our Facebook Community page).
ONE of the earliest feelings of my life in the NICU was being separated from my baby. This feeling still prevails within me as I am writing this blog. This feeling of separation can only be felt deeply by the families who have gone through similar trauma in their lives.
Each one of us ended up in NICU expecting the unexpected.
Initially, it was very hard as parents--both me and my husband wanted to be with the baby. At that time, I just wanted to hold my baby close to my skin--in my arms and never let him go. The acknowledgment of the separation feelings were important at that time.
Every day my other kids would rush towards the door expecting our new baby to come home that day. It was painful to tell them that baby was not coming home yet.
A mother's bonding sprouts the day the woman is told that she is expecting. It is a wonderful feeling. During pregnancy you think about what the baby will look like, his birth, first eye contact, first skin-to-skin contact, first touch of holding tiny fingers--all of these are crucial for the families.
In the end, I must say that I am forever grateful to the NICU for letting moms and dads hold babies' hands, use the skin-to-skin method and their cradling program. These programs helped to ease separation and develop a healthy normal bonding with the beautiful child.
What was the first feeling you had when you were in the NICU? How did you bond with your baby?