Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Power of a Parent's Loving Touch

I want to share my story with all of you... a story about a mother and father's love for their children... and their persistence in sharing that love the only way they knows how with their newborn babies... little babies that are growing and healing inside isolette's in the NICU...

In the months and weeks leading up to the birth of our quadruplets, I had read numerous books, researched online, and corresponded with doctor's as well as other quad moms in regards many of the challenges we may face with our babies in the NICU.

The births of our other children were all quite a bit different than that we knew we were going to be faced with. Yes, our beautiful daughter Meadow spent all 5 of her days with us in the NICU down at Spectrum in Grand Rapids... but we were a special story and were therefore allowed special priveledges with our daughter during that time. The first night we were able to see Meadow, they allowed us to leave a small CD player with her & Aiden's Enya CD so she would not feel alone at night and the other times we were not able to be with her. And when we came back in the middle of the night, the wonderful NICU nurses had labeled her CD player "Meadow's Music" and were leaning over her playing it to softly as we walked in.... The second morning after Aiden & Meadow's birth, we were allowed to paint our little girl's toenails - I wanted her to feel 'Pretty in Pink' - because she was. After only 2-1/2 days Aiden was allowed to lay with his sister in her bed so they could once again feel each other's closeness... as they had done for nearly 36 weeks inside me. And after 3 days we were able to pick our daughter up and hold her in our arms. By the 4th day we were able to rock with Meadow and Aiden together, outside the confines of her bed, as every parent dreams of doing with their babies. And on the 5th day, as our baby girl Meadow was baptized, each of our family members that were with us were able to hold their granddaugther/niece and rock with her as well... Jeremy and I spent hours with our Meadow and Aiden in our arms together that day... We are so grateful for these time we had with our daughter... these precious memories and her amazing spirit are all that we have and we cherish them so close to our hearts. Remembering is hard, as the tears running down my face remind me... Ultimately, Jeremy and I knew why we were given these special "priviledges" with our Meadow Anne... and as estatic as we were to have them, a small piece of or hearts broke each time... knowing.... but the comfort in knowing that God had a better plan for our little girl and that she is with Him looking down on us and smiling... we do not question God's Plan for our Angel Meadow...

And now, here we are with our fragile little ones in the NICU again. But God has a much different plan for our family this time... our four babies are in this very special place to grow, to get healthy, and, above all, to rest until that day we are able to bring them all home with us. We are given no special priviledges because our babies are so delicate and therefore we must follow what the doctor's and nurse's tell us is best for each of them on any particular day. And it does change, day by day, sometimes hour by hour. The reality of having to hear "Today has been a rough day for... So we are leaving them alone as much as possible." (Read: Do your best not to disturb this baby at all right now. This includes whispering only and absolutely no touching.) is very tough to process when a mere 4 hours ago this baby might have been the one doing the best. We often want to ask "BUT WHAT HAPPENED?" but we know the answer, time and time again, is nothing specific. Through our tears, as we watch our babies take a step back, then a step forward, then 3 steps back, then... we are told time and time again that "This is to be expected for preemies. It is not out of the ordinary and we fully expect they will rebound within 24-48 hours once..." It rarely stops the tears, but we appreciate the sincere compassion in which our doctor's and nurse's address us with. I, as you may know, am a hugger... and so upon meeting each one of our children's doctor's or nurse's... well, I hug them. I know exactly how important their relationship and gentleness with our babies matters. We have seen both sides of the spectrum in the NICU. And my hope is that by opening up that door to our hearts and allowing myself to open up to them, they, in turn, will treat our babies a little more like their own... I truly believe it matters and building this relationship is absolutely critical with each and every one of our babies caregivers. And now, Jeremy and I both feel that the majority of them respond to us as if we have known them for years... not days. The hugs flow freely... we ask how each other are doing... and we MEAN it when we ask... on occasion, I have actually been followed out of the NICU by a nurse so that she could try to quiet my heartbroken tears with a hug... followed out of the NICU by a nurse so that she could tell me it really, truly IS going to be OK.

These people are a very special breed and Jeremy and I are eternally grateful they have been chosen to enter our lives as caregivers for our babies...

One of the hardest parts of our rollercoaster is feeling so completely void of any control with our babies health and happiness. I can barely stand to type the words... it is the hardest thing imaginable to watch your perfect little babies suffer... and not be able to do a single thing about it. On the good days, we now have the amazing pleasure of cradling our babies heads and bodies with our hands... and the occasional holding of their precious little hand... several times we have now been asked to help change their diapers... and, as of yesterday, help change their bedding - which is the ultimate emotional experience because we actually get to hold our babies above their beds while the nurse's do their work... granted, we are "holding" (more like suspending) them above their beds, and not in our arms or on our chests.... but we take so much pleasure in these times and each new experience.

We have been known to bend over to sing lull-a-byes to our children through the tiny isolette access holes for hours on end before we have to leave them at night... and one time, just one so far, I was actually able to smell one of our babies heads as I cradled it during his echo... please remember as you read this the first time you held your baby and leaned down to smell their little head... again, it is one of a parent's guilty pleasure's that we all take for granted until the day it is taken away from you. Is there many smells we experience as pure and heavenly as a newborn babies skin?

I think not.

All Jeremy and I have to soothe our babies is our voice, our smell, and our gentle touch from a far through two openings in these isolette's. And we long for the moment's we are allowed to share these precious times with our babies.

My last night in the hospital was a night that I will never forget. I walked into the NICU late at night to spend time with my babies... I knew these ultra-late night excursions were going to become much more difficult once I was released. And on this night upon entering our "quad corner" (that's our section of the NICU) I was horrified to find all three of our boys crying. Imagine this little cry... it's absolutely heartbreaking... you look at their little bodies writhing around... you look at all the tubes and cords attached to them and KNOW how uncomfortable they must be... these beautiful little things only know to cry when something isn't right... they are suffering... and my heart was absolutely shattered. As hard as the nurse's were trying, none of them were able to console our little boys that night.

I felt so helpless.

So empty inside.

But instead of standing back and continuing to watch in horror, I decided that I was going to do whatever I could (read: whatever they would let me do) to soothe our baby boys and let them know how much mommy loves them.

I started with Dane, our baby D. I approached the nurse and asked if I could try and she was so sweet to encourage me with a "Only a mommy can help these boys tonight. I know he'll respond to you."

Sometimes, it's the little things people say and do that have the biggest impact. And those words, maybe not so memorable to her, gave me the confidence and strength I needed that night to gently cradle each of my boys heads and feet and sing to them each until they were calmed and sound asleep again.

I was able to spend time with Dane, then Cameron, and then, suprisingly even little, fragile Brock, whom they had been very reluctant to let us touch for days... and they each responded so well to my touch and the sound of my voice... for once, I had an ounce of control and had been allowed to soothe my babies... thank you, thank you, thank you to each of their nurse's that night. Thank you for allowing me to have that time with each of them and reassure myself that as their mommy I DO have the ability to let them know they are loved... let them know they are not alone... let them know I am there with them... and sing them to sleep.

I understand that there are certain dangers in allowing too much stimulation to our delicate babies. But on this night, the power of my touch and the sound of my voice was the only way to their hearts... praise God for these memories... and for these four little miracles in our lives.

Never under estimate your own power to heal and love through touch...

Thank you all for your continued prayers for our beloved Summer, Brock, Cameron, and Dane. Today was a great day with all of them... today was a day of no tears, only smiles... I know we have the good Lord and each of you to thank for their health and our own strength to make it to this point.

Good night.

I hope you smile as you see this last picture of our beautiful Summer... before she had to go bad on the CPAP... how we enjoyed watching her gorgeous eyes on us... and we will again soon when she feels a little better.


Anonymous said...

Tonya, Very Touching! We wish your family the best of luck and will keep you in our prayers. - Barringer Family

Gabrielle said...

Tonya I'm speechless, that was just beautiful.
You are an amazing mom!

Love, Gabrielle

Jason said...

Hey guys, Jason Plum & family here. We've been keeping up with the blog and are thinking of your family as you go through your ordeals.

We had our short time in the NICU with our first and can sympathize a little with what you're going through, but certainly not at this level.

Our best wishes with you all, hoping that everybody gets strong, healthy and gets to go home as soon as possible.

Jason, Rachel and Beatrice Plum

Susan Kalb said...

Just a Grandma who has been following your blog for a couple of months. Those babies are beautiful. Praying that they continue to get stronger every day. You are amazing family. God Bless You ALL...
Susan from California

Dana said...

Wow--nothing like starting the day with a good cry. It really is amazing the bond that babies have with their parents right from birth. With both of my girls, they were soothed within minutes of birth by Daryn's voice (Rachel) and mine (Jenna). You are giving them what they need right now, and no doubt it is making a difference.
Much love and prayers,
Dana M.

Anonymous said...

This is the most beautiful thing that I have ever read. Thank you for continuing to share this journey with us. We love you. We will be praying for you, Lew and the babies.

Anonymous said...

Tonya & Jeremy,

I am a friend of Vicki Loveland's and have been following your blog for some time now. We have lived through the NICU experience but I can't imagine having four babies in there at once. You are very strong people and you have many people rooting for these little miracles!

Todd & Elise Hill

KSDallas said...

Wow. I cried as I read your post. It was so touching. I can not imagine the roller coaster of emotions you deal with each day.

Your posts really show the true and sometimes raw reality you are facing. Thank you again for sharing that with us.

You are in our hearts and prayers as you journey through this.


Jodi said...

That was beautiful. Thank you for sharing your story. You are all in our thoughts everyday.
Jodi, Shelly, and Lucian

Anonymous said...

Hey there Aunt Tee. Jackie can't wait to come up and see you. We'll be there for sure tomorrow afternoon when Steve gets out of work. Summer is so beautiful. Tonya they look great! Tell them I love them and I'll see you soon.

The Salladay's

Gerri said...

Tonya - your children are beautiful! Sharing your story brings back alot of memories and feelings of when Livia was in NICU....God was and is with her& Emma, just as he is with you and yours!You are touching people in ways that you don't even know. God Bless you!

Kimmi said...

Jeremy, Tonya and kids~

Thank you so much for sharing in detail everything you have been experiencing. You truly are amazing people and parents. You remind me daily to be thankful for the little things that we seem to forget in our everyday hectic lives. Your family is in our prayers, never underestimate God's healing power!

Jim, Kimmi, Jimmy, Julia, Jacob and Joey Turner

Anonymous said...

Dear Lewandowski Family,

Jill and Tim have shared your story with us today. You wrote so beautifully. Ken and I will pray for your family. Eight years ago we had an experience with the NICU at Spectrum and Butterworth in Grand Rapids. I could just feel your joys and struggles as I read this tonight. You two are definitely a gift to your children. Stay strong.
The Shear Family

l e a h said...

Wow, Summer is beautiful and I adore that last picture...

They're all so beautiful!

Anonymous said...

tanya you write so beautifully. i was so touched to hear such a beautiful story about all of your children. I read the stories backwards, but even knowing that they are doing better, to read of what you have all gone through i can only pray that God gives you as much comfort as he possibly can. You guys are all so amazing and those babies couldn't have been sent to a more special family. I have a funny feeling that Meadow had something to do with picking out Summer :) I love you guys and i am so glad that they are all doing so well.

love always, thinking of you always,

mary tworkowski