One never knows what life has in store. It is full of experiences and events, guiding you to places you’ve never imagined and defining who you are. So begins our story.
I was 29 weeks pregnant with our third son. Life was wonderful, yet hectic, with two busy boys under the age of four to chase after! Up until this point, my pregnancy was uneventful. I have always had relatively healthy pregnancies, although my boys were always impatient and seemed to want to arrive early! My first son Daniel was born at 36 weeks, followed by his brother, Noah who was born at 35. I realized our new baby might also try to make an early escape, but I was going to do everything in my power to thwart his attempts!
At 29 weeks it was confirmed by ultrasound that early labour was likely imminent. I was to be on bed rest, and needed to take it easy the remainder of my pregnancy. Despite my best attempts at doing so, things still progressed. I was admitted to Red Deer Regional Hospital and for the first time during this pregnancy, was truly scared. Twenty-nine weeks was far too early. At this developmental stage, my baby would lack the strength and ability to thrive on his own outside of the womb. We were fraught with concern and worry, and every extra day that he stayed inside became a gift.
The doctors in Red Deer advised that I needed to stay close to the hospital, given that my last delivery was quick. We live 35 minutes outside of the city, and delivering a premature baby at home was not something we were willing to chance. My journey with the most incredible and loving place, Ronald McDonald House Central Alberta began.
There are no words to express what Ronald McDonald House means to our family. It was a gift of comfort and reassurance during a time of great uncertainty. I will never forget the night my husband, Joel and I walked over with a small bag of my belongings tucked under my arm. I did not know how long I would be staying, what to expect and if I could manage without my family. I had never been away from my kids for more than a day. The thought of living apart from them was very difficult. As soon as we walked through the doors, we were greeted by one of the most kind and caring women I have ever met, Suzette Mah. The look on my face must have been a familiar one, because she recognized that I just needed a hug! Suzette, I will never forget that! My experience with Ronald McDonald House was just that; a warm and comforting hug. From the moment I walked in, I was embraced in a world of comfort, empathy, compassion and love. I may not have been home, but it felt rather close! I slowly settled in and patiently counted down the remaining weeks of my pregnancy.
While I lived at Ronald McDonald House, I continued to be on bed rest, yet was able to get around at times with the use of a wheelchair – something that was donated to the House by a kind soul. Due to my lack of mobility, I was unable to care for our boys on my own while my husband Joel was at work. During this time, our parents would watch the kids, with Joel and the boys coming to stay with me when he was on days off. The room we shared was more spacious and comfortable than we ever could have imagined, and the boys felt like we were on a perpetual camping trip! It was an adventure for them, while at the same, being afforded the creature comforts of home. The Play Area and Craft Room are places my boys still talk about, as they loved spending time in both. They became friendly with all of the incredible volunteers and staff, for whom I will always remain thankful for. They possess the purest of hearts and kindest of souls. I do not know if they even realize the impact that they have had on the families that have called Ronald McDonald House home. I will remember each and every one of them fondly, for they embraced us like family.
After 39 days at Ronald McDonald House, I went into labour. On April 24, we welcomed our new little boy, Liam. As I held him for the first time, I reflected on what a whirlwind the last few months were, and was so grateful for all the love and assistance we were given.
After a short stay in the NICU, we brought Liam home. It was the sweetest ending to a long and faithful journey. With a heavy heart, I packed my belongings and made way for the next family checking in to the House.
Every family that has stayed at Ronald McDonald House has their own story. It is an honour and a great privilege to share ours. We hope that in doing so, we inspire others to discover how they might help to support Ronald McDonald House in continuing to provide for families who require their assistance.