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When it Takes a Village to Raise a Child, Find it, Use it

Author: Jessica Woolwine
Published Date: Tuesday, July 19, 2016

I’m a firm believer that it takes a village to raise our children.

Right now, I’m on vacation with my family in the Outer Banks.

Jackson is down by the pool, cleaning remnants of yesterday’s water balloon fight. Abby is eating breakfast at the kitchen table and coloring. Henry is in his swing for his morning nap.

Physically, I cannot be in three places at one time. With a houseful of family, there’s an adult by each child so I can write this post outside on the deck, enjoying a cup of coffee and the ocean breeze.

It has not always been like this. Not last week or last month or four years ago. Most days, I’m the one in charge of all three kids for weeks on end. When I find myself short of patience and fighting the feeling of running for the hills, I call the village and the village takes over for a little while.

I have always been thankful for my family, friends and coworkers. But with my kids’ health scares, my on-call network grew exponentially by social workers, child life specialists, nurses, doctors and support staff.

When Abby was born at 24 weeks, I was the mother of a rambunctious cancer-surviving preschooler. I found myself back at CHKD, this time hitting the button for the 4th floor instead of the 8th. I was overwhelmed by grief. A failed pregnancy…another sick child? It was too much for my mind to wrap itself around.

I would make the walk to the pod that held my tiny, and I mean TINY baby and wonder what I did wrong. Why did she need machines, medications and an incubator just to live until tomorrow?

It was in those first harrowing weeks of Abby’s 104-stay that the NICU village found me.

A social worker helped me understand and fill out medical and insurance paperwork. A patient coordinator greeted me everyday and invited me to support groups and dinners.

The nurses became my daily lifeline, their faces and voices became my baby’s fiercest protectors and advocates outside of their momma. When the chaplain stopped by to encourage, I clung to his faith that better days were ahead.

And a smile from the lactation consultant outside the pump room turned into much-needed advice and supplies for a blocked duct.

Because of this village, I had the confidence to take care of my very sick baby. And it enabled me to seek the friendship of other parents sitting with their babies. Our eyes would meet over our children’s incubators, and we’d share our war stories of placenta previa, preeclampsia, genetic disorders or ruptured membranes.

Four and a half years after the NICU, two of those years serving on the NICU Family Advisory Council, I can still remember vividly how it felt to be sad and devastated as a new NICU family. There are no words to describe the real possibility of losing a child.

But because of my village, and the joy of watching my former micropreemie eating breakfast while coloring on vacation, this is the word that comes to me now: grateful.

If you find yourself new to a journey with your child, whatever it is, there is a village waiting for you. At CHKD, believe me, they can help you find it.

Whose a part of your village? Give them a shout out in the comment section below!

About Jessica Woolwine

Jessica Woolwine is a native of Hampton Roads and lives in Hampton with her three “miracles” Jackson (9), Abby (5) and Henry (1). As a mother to a childhood cancer survivor and a micro-preemie, she began the blog Mothering Miracles in 2014 to support other families dealing with health issues. Jessica also works as Creative Director for Rubin Communications Group and enjoys mixing her talents for graphic design and creative writing with community relations. She is a past member of both the CHKD Family Advisory Council and the CHKD NICU Family Advisory Council.