There are a few people in my life that I feel utterly honored to know. I'm sure you have those friends that just wow you on a regular basis. Lauren Hefez is one of those people. Her kindness and enthusiasm for life is unparalleled. So I was thrilled when I found out last year that Lauren was pregnant and was expecting her first son last summer.

Unfortunately, Griffin arrived much earlier than expected-- at 26 weeks. Just to put that into perspective, the Supreme Court defines viability of life at 28 weeks. Every time I even try to wrap my head around that, I can't even.

I am thrilled to report, however, that despite his early arrival, Griffin just had his first birthday and is as adorable and healthy as his mama. Lauren put together this amazing video about her journey (just be prepared with tissues when you watch it. I cry almost every time). I'm sure she and Griff are tired of hearing about how strong they are, but they both constantly amaze me.

Lauren was my first friend with a baby who had a long-term stay in the NICU. As much as I wanted to help, I was also clueless about what I could or should do. It was compounded by the fact that I was still pregnant with BFF, and didn't want to put my foot in my mouth about still being pregnant (which I'm sure I did, but since Lauren is gracious and amazing, she didn't say anything).

As premies, and NICU stays are common, I asked Lauren to answer some questions I had about having a baby in the NICU, so that others might learn how best to help them. (Like she didn't have anything else better to do than help me with my questions. I told you she was amazing.)

Also, if after watching her video, you feel compelled to help, you can donate to her March of Dimes fundraiser page here. Also, if you're local to Boston she's hosting an amazing fundraiser fitness class at the Ink Block apartments on May 7th, and I encourage everyone to go because it will be fantastic and for a great cause. Signup for that is here.

And without further ado, here's the interview with Lauren.

*** First and foremost, how is Griff doing at home? Griff is doing great! We are taking it one day at a time, and always reminding ourselves how lucky we are. We have a lot of follow-up appointments to make sure everything is developing the way it should be, but he is happy as can be, thriving, hitting his milestones and just the best.

And how are YOU doing with having him at home? How is the adjustment going?

It's amazing having our little dude home with us. When he first came home we called him a wireless baby. It was so strange that we could walk around with him- wherever and whenever we wanted- without being attached to monitors, wires, and cords. It is also strange not having a nurse next to you at all times. We learned so much from them. We had the best resources right at our fingertips ALL THE TIME. Thankfully we were able to take what we learned from them and apply to our home life. They prepared us very well.

What's your advice to other parents who find themselves in the NICU?

The days are long and nights are longer. It is a roller coaster, and once you think the ride is over you have yet another uphill battle and another drop. It is hard, so so hard. I am literally crying writing this. I had the corner spot in the NICU, and saw so many families come in and out. Griff had a long stay of 4.5 months, so I get it. No matter how long your stay is, it's hard. My advice would be to lean on friends and family for support, to bring up any and all concerns/questions to the amazing doctors and nurses around you, and most importantly to know that you and your baby are stronger than you think. You will get through this.

What's your advice to friends and others who want to help a family who is in the NICU?

I know it can be hard seeing a family member or friend go through their baby being in the NICU. The things I appreciated most were when I would come home from 12 hours at the NICU and there would be dinner waiting on my doorstep, a package, a sweet motivating card. Don’t ask "what can I do?"- just do something! Anything to let the families know you are thinking of them. Oh, my sister in law made me little baggies filled with snacks to bring to the NICU- this was amazing! Food is always helpful.

What was the most helpful gift you received while in the NICU?

Lovies were always nice. I would rub my scent on them and leave them in Griff's crib so he could smell me when I could not be with him physically. Gift cards to local restaurants in and around the hospital were always helpful. We received a bunch of swaddles and blankets as well- just something to make your little corner of the NICU feel more like home.

Anything friends and others who want to help SHOULDN'T do for a family in the NICU?

Do not show up to the hospital without being invited or asked to come. This did not happen to us, but I feel like it could happen.

Anything else you want to add?

My heart goes out to the families who do not to get to leave with their baby after their NICU journey. It is the sad and heartbreaking reality that comes along with having a premature baby or a baby born with other complications. It is so unfair. On May 13th I will be walking in the March Of Dimes walk in honor of my son, and all of the other families and babies whose life started, and even ended, a little too soon. I would love and appreciate any donation to help fund research and give these babies a better chance of survival. Heck, come join me on Sunday, May 7th for an awesome fundraising class at Ink Block in Boston. All money raised goes to March Of Dimes! https://www.eventbrite.com/e/teamgriff-fitness-fundraiser-for-march-of-dimes-tickets-33578661681



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