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Lindsay & Jen share their advice for NICU parents: accept help when it is offered

Harrop family

Eddie, Lindsay, Jen and Norah. (photo by Doug Nicholson)

Jen recalls the absolute shock of having Lindsay’s pregnancy go from ‘perfectly normal’ to a premature delivery at 27 weeks.

Within a few hours of experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions, Lindsay had delivered their baby girl, who they who they named Norah Elizabeth Aoife, via an emergency c-section. “My mind was racing, I kept thinking, we don’t have a car seat, we’re not ready,” says Jen, who says their doula gently explained to her and Lindsay their baby would spend time in the NICU before going home.

With a finance background, Jen started to research statistics for premature births and had percentages on the possibility of complications swirling in her mind. Jen laughs as she admits between her and her wife, who is a math teacher, “we’re numbers people and deal in absolutes”.

Jen and Lindsay found an approach that worked for them. “We learned there were very few things we could control, so we controlled what we could.” Jen helped to make sure Lindsay was well hydrated so her milk would come in. They focused on making sure they could tuck their eldest son, Eddie, who was two and a half years old at the time, into bed each night.

When asked if they have any advice for current families with a baby, or babies, in the NICU, they are unequivocal: accept help when it is offered. “If someone said, ‘tell me how I can help’, I would give them money and a grocery list,” says Jen. “Friends, family members and colleagues would pop over for a few hours so we could both be with Norah in the unit. It helped us tremendously to willingly accept offers of help.”

Flash forward a few years and Norah is writing her own name at preschool and, according to Jen, “redefining the term ‘threenager’. She hits the ski slopes regularly with her family. She does have a chronic lung disease condition, but it doesn’t hold her back. Jen admits Norah is a fighter. During her time in the NICU she would alert nurses and other staff with her loud cry. Jen smiles and reveals Norah’s middle name, Aoife, is taken from Irish mythology and means ‘warrior’.

When Norah was in the NICU, her moms celebrated her journey with a small bottle of sparkling wine every Friday. “A stay in the NICU is a marathon, not a sprint, but we celebrated the small victories each week and found hope.”

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Marie Sanderson

Marie Sanderson is a Senior Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook.

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