A Mother’s Hands

April 10, 2017

I will never forget the image of my mom entering my hospital room shortly after my son was born. She did not come bearing balloons or flowers or a soft receiving blanket. Instead of tears of joy following the birth of her first grandchild, her eyes were brimming with tears of sadness and her lips were tight with worry. As she pushed open the heavy door and spread her arms wide to embrace me, I warned her not to cry. Something primal in me knew that I would need to draw on her strength in the days and weeks to come. I needed her to be strong so she could bolster me through the storm ahead.

As she stood bravely at my bedside stroking my hair and holding my hand, I showed her the Polaroid picture of her grandson who weighed one pound and eight ounces and was clinging to life in the neonatal intensive care unit. The lighting was bad, and the image was fuzzy. To me he looked more like an alien than a baby. But not in Nana’s eyes. To her, he was beautiful. She insisted on taping the picture to the handrail of my bed because she instinctively knew that I needed to bond with this baby I had yet to meet.

NICU, mothers day, prematurity, hand to hold, mother

Nana Mary and Jackson

Hours later when a nurse came to take me to the NICU, I did not want to go. I did not think I could handle seeing him hooked up to monitors and machines. But my mom encouraged me to go. She told me how important it was for him to hear my voice.

In the months that followed, she was a constant presence caring for me, her baby, just as lovingly and tirelessly as the nurses in the NICU were caring for mine. She held my hand often, prayed with me and for me, reminded me of my strength and never let me give up hope.

In the sixteen years since my son’s birth, my mom has provided sage wisdom and a steady hand to hold through the wake of obstacles presented by my son’s prematurity.

I was recently chosen as a cast member of Listen to Your Mother, a live storytelling show in which local writers and authors share essays and stories on motherhood. I’m thrilled for the opportunity to honor my mom publicly for the important role she has played in my journey from frightened NICU mom to founder of a national nonprofit that now supports tens of thousands of families each year.

While the NICU was the most challenging experience of my life, tucked inside its misery were tiny buds that would eventually sprout into tremendous blessings. One of them was the reminder of my mother’s deep, never-ending love. It is that source of strength and comfort that Hand to Hold strives to provide daily to all the families we serve.

Although my mom often complains now about the dark, age spots on the back of her hands, to me they are a reminder of the meals she has lovingly prepared, the miles she has driven to be by my side and the strength and love that has always radiated through them when she holds mine.

Thank you, Mom,


As Mother’s Day draws closer, consider honoring a special NICU mom or grandmother by making a donation to Hand to Hold. For donations of $25 or more, Hand to Hold will send a recipient of your choice a Mother’s Day Card with your personalized message.