by Arielle Lucas
My son, Qingston, wakes up every morning with a smile on his face. When I think about the road our family took to get to these daily smiles, I am overcome with emotion.
Qingston came into the world at 27 weeks in May 2019. While other families were creating summer memories, I was traveling to and from the NICU with my 10-year-old daughter Shaylona, while my wife worked full time.
I struggled to find balance. Out of school for the summer, Shaylona often came to the hospital with me and sat in the waiting room. While Qingston slept, I would leave the NICU and take her to the cafeteria or for a walk outside. Then it was back to the NICU and to the waiting room so I could feed Qingston. My wife would arrive after work to visit, then we would all go home together.
Shaylona was a good sport about it all. She understood that her brother had to get help and grow, and she enjoyed looking at the pictures I would show her. She was concerned for us, seeing how sad we were leaving the hospital.
Those long days took a toll on all of us.
I’m not sure I could even sum up the feelings and emotions we dealt with in the NICU. Some days we were happy that he was getting the help he needed, while other days we were all done. We wanted him home, and that turned into anger. Crying because I did something wrong during my pregnancy, causing him to go through all of this.
During his three-month stay in the NICU, Qingston accomplished a lot – getting off the CPAP machine, learning to take a mere 2 ounces from a bottle, and eventually mastering breastfeeding. It’s only looking back that I realize our family accomplished a lot, too.
We learned to balance work, home, and the NICU. We managed to spend quality time with Shaylona where we could. We learned that we are stronger than we ever knew. And Hand to Hold was a big part of that.
The weekly support groups and visits from Hand to Hold gave us hope during those months. They helped us understand it isn’t our fault and see that Qingston was growing stronger everyday. The fun and educational Sibling Sundaes events gave Shaylona confidence in her role as Big Sister. Months later we are thriving and have Hand to Hold to thank for supporting our family during that time.