I’m thrilled to welcome our newest featured writer to the Every Tiny Thing Team - Ashlin Stecz. She will be contributing articles to our blog in the coming months, to share her passion for supporting NICU moms after having been through the experience herself. Please help me welcome her, and enjoy!
This morning (3/19/2020) I am sitting at my dining room table with my 2 year old son, W (a former 29 weeker). We’ve sat here at this table for breakfast together multiple times in the past, but today feels different than those usual breakfast dates. In fact, today feels eerily similar to the first several weeks being home from the NICU. In this current pandemic from COVID-19, we are all being urged to practice social distancing, to stay home and only go out to the public if and when absolutely necessary. I don't know what the current status is in your personal community but I do know that this is a time of nerves and uncertainty; and yet, it feels familiar, like a case of deja vu.
When we were discharged from the NICU after our 7 week stay, our nurses and neonatologist gave us the talk about social distancing and how important it would be for not just our family to adapt to our new normal, but even more importantly for W to have a chance to let his body adapt to the world outside the NICU and its “infection-controlled” environment.
I remember when we told the world that we had been discharged and were finally being home and it broke my heart to have to tell people we would have to seriously limit our face to face limitation for 6 weeks. W was and still is the only grandchild on either my or my husband’s side of the family and we were the first of most of our friends to have a baby. It was so hard not to see our families, apart from short visits for them to bring us food (bless them all!).
Most of our introductions of W from home was done via FaceTime or another video chat channel. Anyone who entered our home had to remove shoes, wash their hands and use hand sanitizer (a practice we still use to this day!). We did not allow anyone who had been sick recently or who had been in contact with anyone ill to visit us. We did not go to friend’s gatherings, church, birthday parties, etc. We took short trips to the store for necessities only and visits to our doctors office (where we were allowed to sit in a more private area so as not to be near other potentially sick people).
When I think about that time, I realize how similar our current circumstances are. When I first heard the request from our governor here in my home state of PA for self isolation, I thought “been there, done that, this will be easy!”. Coronavirus (COVID-19) has put us right back to post-NICU isolation, but this time it's not just us being asked to isolate. It's all of us!
This disruption to our lives is impactful in so many ways and we are all feeling it differently. For some of us, our work lives have been reimagined to home and online, for others your businesses have been closed, and for some of us (healthcare/essential personnel) our professional lives have gone on as usual but with a feeling of higher stakes. With all this change and uncertainty it can be so hard to find the good in it all.
But if I keep thinking about those 6 weeks of isolation after bringing W home, I can think of so many beautiful moments. Slower mornings to drink coffee with my husband. Time to reflect on the crazy ride life had us on over the last 2 months. Time to really notice and appreciate the lives my neighbors live as we talked to one another from our front porches. I had the ability to read more, spend less, and focus on the little things I had in life that really did matter most; my family, my health, all the things I've been blessed with, and that little bundle of pure joy I could hold and bond with all day long!
So as we continue to practice the social distancing guidelines set by the CDC and our national and local governments, I will be trying to find those beautiful moments again. I encourage you to do the same! Take advantage of the time to pour into your kids, read a new book, video chat your loved ones, and please… wash your hands!
Sending love and health!
Ashlin Stecz is a mom to 2 year old Wyatt, a former 29 weeker. She is a radiologist technologist in orthopedic and trauma surgery but also has a passion for supporting women in their motherhood journeys. She is currently working toward earning her certificate as a lactation counselor and plans to continue by completing her IBCLC. She has a special place in her heart for NICU parents and hopes to spread encouragement to families during the NICU journey. In her spare time she loves playing with her son and husband, reading, and completing DIY home improvement projects.