This month, we are pleased to welcome Kristi Sterry to the Raise a Mother village. Kristi is the mom of two little boys. She works in cancer research, and enjoys travel, hiking, and trail running. You can find her blog at lovelearnrunblog.wordpress.com and follow her on Twitter @krististerry. Welcome, Kristi!
Our youngest son, James, was born with a serious medical issue. Hours after his birth, we discovered that his esophagus was not connected to his stomach, his trachea was underdeveloped, and had a fistula. This condition is called esophageal atresia with tracheoesophageal fistula, or EA/TEF.
Our world changed overnight. Instead of the sleepless nights, baby cuddles, and diapers we expected, we found ourselves navigating major surgeries, lengthy hospital stays, and an uncertain future.
Our friends and family shared our heartache and our hope for this sweet new baby. Everyone we knew offered to help. And honestly, they made all the difference in the world. Here’s how:
Help with the older kids
My water broke at 5:45am, and we left for the hospital by 7am. My older son, Thomas, awoke to the news that he had a new baby brother. Before Thomas even met his brother, James had to be life-flighted to a larger hospital 2.5 hours away. I followed as soon as I was discharged from the hospital.
I was terrified for my new baby, but my heart broke for my firstborn. I knew he was confused and sad and missed his family.
During this time, our friends and family took care of Thomas, helped him FaceTime with us, took him on play dates, and brought him over the mountain pass to visit us. Knowing that he was being loved and cared for brought this mama tremendous peace of mind.
After we got home, friends showed up with meals every day for 2 months. It was such a tremendous help to have that off our plate so we could just focus on our family. And many of my friends don’t cook (like me!), so they chipped in on gift cards.
Those long days at the hospital were really lonely, especially since we were hours away from home. My best friends texted constantly. My sister and mom e-mailed me encouraging quotes and verses late every night, since they knew I would be up pumping. One sweet friend sent her friend who lived locally to deliver a care package. It was so nice to connect with another mom. Honestly, the love and support we received during that time still brings tears to my eyes. Not everyone knew what to say, but just knowing they were thinking of us meant the world.
Keep offering to help
This is the big one. Once the baby comes home from the hospital, it seems like the medical crisis is over. But for many families, it is harder, lonelier, and scarier once they leave the support of the hospital. Our friends and family keep checking in with us. They pray alongside us when James is sick. And they celebrate every milestone as he continues to grow and thrive.
Watching your child suffer through a major medical issue is not something I would wish upon anyone. But I wouldn’t trade our journey with James for the world. He has taught us many things, not least of which is what a wonderful community surrounds our family.
January is EA/TEF Awareness Month. Each year, 1 out of every 4,500 babies is born with EA/TEF. Even after their repair, many of these children battle a long list of chronic issues. On this official awareness month, we spread the word about this unknown condition and celebrate modern medicine gifting our children with life.