Our Village Baby

I’ve been sitting on this story for almost a month now.  My hesitation for writing it has many layers, not the least of which is it’s a deeply personal story, and I try to keep relatively clear boundaries between my personal and professional lives, especially with my blog.  There have been exceptions, though, and in the end they ultimately related to the Seed somehow.  As the past week has transpired, it is evident that this story is quickly being absorbed into my school life by our incredible Seed community.  I want to share it from my perspective, as I believe it’s a story that needs to be told.  There are parts of it I will leave out because they are still too painful to talk about, and also I want to be respectful of everyone involved. 

Meet Ellie.  She’s my great-granddaughter, born June 14.  Ellie has a sweet, calm disposition.  She’s also an alert, strong little fighter, which is good because she had a rough start.  Ellie was born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, which means she was exposed to opioids in utero.  Normally babies with NAS are placed in a special nursery for several weeks and given regular doses of morphine to ease them through withdrawal.  When one of the nurses noticed the steady stream of family visiting Ellie that first day after her birth, we were invited to participate in a special program called ESC (eat, sleep, console).  We were the sixth family to participate in the program at Chandler Regional.  For the next ten days we were given a room in the NICU where my daughter Sarah, her husband Rich, and I took turns holding and feeding Ellie, comforting and helping her relax enough to go to sleep.  We slept whenever we could, to be ready for wakefulness during the night shift.  When Ellie was inconsolable, she received a rescue dose of morphine.  During our entire stay, she only required four doses, in contrast to a dose every three hours other similar babies receive who are not in the program.  

The nurses in the NICU were extraordinary.  They gave us continual support day and night, offering encouraging words and tips for how to successfully help our special baby get through her transition.  In addition to the nurses, we saw a group of specialists who offered a wealth of advice for the days ahead.  The two pediatricians we saw were both kind and patient as Ellie learned to drink properly from her bottle.  We felt supported and appreciated for all we were doing for Ellie.

I’m happy to report that Ellie, now almost a month old, is thriving.  She’s safely at home with Sarah and Rich, eating and sleeping her way into babyhood.  She’s been at the Seed several days in the past two weeks, gradually getting to know the people who will shape her future.  Ellie is one of the lucky babies who has a loving village.  Our family is fortunate as well.  

There are many pieces to her story that have yet to be resolved.  Along with the joy of having Ellie in our lives, there is deep grieving and sadness.  Stories like Ellie’s are everywhere in the news.  I never in a million years expected our family to be touched by the opioid epidemic, and I’m hoping that beginning to share our story might be helpful in some way to others.  When we first learned Ellie was conceived, I decided, for whatever reason, that she needed to be a part of our family.  Each additional day she is with us, I realize how much we need her—for healing, hope, and inspiration for new ways to approach a devastating problem.  With support of the Seed village, our family embraces a precious baby, as well as the opportunity to be a role model for others facing the same family challenges.  I believe things always happen for a reason.  I’m glad Ellie chose us.