By Kat Williams, Ronald McDonald House Southern Alberta family
Some days when I’m chasing after the twins from room to room or sprinting through the park to rescue them from some dare devil trick I think to myself, “Wow I need a drink!” Oh wait, I wasn’t supposed to say that out loud, let me rephrase… I think to myself, “Wow, if only I had known back then that we would even get to this place!”
In truth I would have paid anything, absolutely anything, to be able to fast forward in time and have a glimpse of all of this. While I sat for hour upon hour by beeping machines , watching saturation levels and heart rates and things I never did have the presence of mind to ask what they did, I would have loved to have known that after weeks at in the Foothills NICU, almost 2 months at the Children’s hospital (for 1 of the girl’s) and going home with teensy tiny little babies, that I would have chubby little toddlers riding around on their run bikes, eating sushi and fries and having the nicknames Mayhem and Destruction (we aren’t sure which is which).
The girls recently turned 2, and this is our story of why Ronald McDonald House will always have a piece of our heart.
By 24 weeks, things were definitely going awry. The doctors were telling me that I could go into labour at anytime, anywhere. What? Complicated by the fact I was carrying identical twin girls. Complicated by the fact I was old. (ok ok seriously? I was only 39!) Complicated by the fact we live in the far South Western corner of Alberta; a 3 hour drive from the only hospital that was capable of handling premature twins. And the fact that one of the twins was in the less that 1 percentile for weight/size and she still didn’t seem to be growing.
The doctors (and there were many) started talking about moving me to Calgary. I had a 1,000 reasons of why I couldn’t. I had no friends or family there. And my son who had just turned 3, what about him? I had never been away from him for more than 7 hours! Calgary? I don’t want Calgary on their birth certificates! (sorry Calgary) No I’ll stay here, I’ll take it easy, it will be ok.
But with each trip to Calgary for appointments or ultrasounds, it was getting worse. Soon there wasn’t a single appointment that didn’t end in tears. The specialists wanted me there now. We started to think about options. There weren’t many. A hotel? Financially that would break us within a week. A truck and camper in the hospital parking lot? That seemed to be the best option and we didn’t even have one (2 man back packing tent in the woods? Yes, I was beginning to panic). I was still dragging my heels; I wanted to be at home with my boy. I was on bed rest and I wasn’t very good at it. Did I mention the 3 year old? He wasn’t very good at me being on bed rest either.
Finally at week 26 the doctors wanted me on complete bed rest, in Calgary. NOW. I began to envision myself in that tiny back packing tent in the woods behind the hospital…it wouldn’t be so bad right? Even if my belly wasn’t really going to fit in there…
Lucky for us, a kind hearted obstetrician mentioned Ronald McDonald House. He would even make a call and see if there was room. What? Where is it? Don’t only really, really sick kids go there? Do I have to eat happy meals every meal? I was clueless. And scared.
ON the long 3 hour drive home from that appointment my husband became adamant that I say yes to RMH. If they had room. I started picturing a décor of mustard yellow and ketchup red. And lots and lots of happy meals. I was picturing a very sad sad depressing place. Maybe the back packing tent in the woods wouldn’t be so bad…
Luckily they had room. I was in.
I arrived 2 days before 27 weeks of pregnancy had gone by. We were excited I had made it that far. And I was still picturing a tiny depressing dormitory the colour of condiments. I was wrong.
Wow. A beautiful smiling volunteer greeted us at the door, and showed us around a house that was more akin to a ski chalet in Lake Louise than anything I had imagined. A gorgeous kitchen! A library! Craft room! Laundry! Toy room! And that fabulous counter of baked goods! Yum!
And my room where I was destined to spend hour upon hour lying on my side hoping these babies just stayed inside just a little bit longer was so comfortable! I loved it. (this is really going to be a very long blog post if I keep gushing about how great it is ,but seriously! Have you ever slept in a back packing tent? Pregnant with twins?) And I never even got downstairs to check out the teen room or the workout room (Hi! Bed rest!)
So I stayed. I was away from my husband and my little boy. I was terrified about these tiny little babies inside of me and lonely but I had a beautiful place to stay. I began to think that we would be okay.
The girls were finally born at 33 weeks. Far healthier and bigger than if they had been born at 24 weeks when the doctors had put me on bed rest. Ruby was a whopping 4lbs 3 oz which was huge for the NICU and Clementine was half her size at 2lbs 2oz. Little Clementiny (nicknamed by RMH staff) was soon diagnosed with 3 issues with her heart – 1 that would probably require surgery. Ruby was out of the NICU in 3 weeks but the day she got out Clementine was transferred to ACH by ambulance (man was her brother jealous!) in her little incubator to await surgery. While Eli stayed at home in the Crowsnest Pass with Vancouver Island Grandma, and Daddy worked as much as he could in between visits to us. Ruby and I spent days at the children’s hospital cuddling Clementine and nights hanging out at Ronald McDonald House where she was way more popular than me! A new chapter had begun…
It has been more than 2 years now since I first waddled in to Ronald McDonald House, but my family and I still have such warm, gushy, glowing feelings for the house and staff that took care of us during my bed rest, and then after while the girls were in the hospital. From the staff coordinating activities to keep us occupied, Karen’s morning rounds checking in on us and saying hi (and knowing every single person by name I swear!), and making sure everything was as well as could be to volunteers baking, cutting hair or doing magic tricks – it all adds up to a very magical place. Because there are a lot of very sad, scared and stressed out parents in the house but there is also so much hope too, it is a magical beautiful place.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart, so much that I might even give my kids a happy meal one of these days. Maybe.