Preemie Mom. High risk Mom. NICU Mom.
These are titles nobody wants, but badges of honor that bring together a small community of women who had no intention of, and would probably prefer not to hold these labels. And one non-profit organization, High Risk Hope is working hard to support this group.
I am a member of this community. Four years later, blessed with a healthy child far-removed from the “preemie life,” I realize I will always hold these titles. No matter the present and future, the past journey was different from what is ideal and the norm. My journey to motherhood was difficult. My pregnancy landed me on hospitalized bedrest. And, my son was born seven weeks early.
On Saturday, November 11, preemie Moms, high risk moms, NICU moms, their families and the Tampa Bay community will come together to honor and celebrate this journey while raising awareness about prematurity at the 5th Annual High Risk Hope Tot Trot presented by Jersey Mike’s Subs being held at 9:30am in Gadsden Park in South Tampa.
Why I Trot
As I began my unexpected bedrest journey, this bright light called High Risk Hope shone on the dark days of hospitalization. A few days into my stay at St Joseph’s Women’s Hospital, a woman walked into my room with a gift. She had a big basket filled with goodies to make my stay easier. There were socks to keep my feet warm, a calendar to celebrate milestones and a journal. Also included were necessities such as toiletries and other comforting items. A giant lump swelled in my throat as I fought back tears as she shared a similar story to my tale of high risk pregnancy. She is the first person I met who related to my exact experience. It was a comforting and hopeful encounter.
I learned this volunteer was from High Risk Hope, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting, encouraging and providing information and resources to Moms like me; the high risk mom, the preemie Mom, the NICU Mom. High Risk Hope was started in 2011 by Heather Barrow, who was 24 weeks pregnant when her water broke and she ended up on hospitalized bed rest. Her son was born at 32 weeks and spent time in the NICU. Today, he is a healthy boy with no complications from his premature birth. During her hospitalization, she received little support from a non-profit. And from her experience, High Risk Hope was born.
Helping thousands in crisis
According to Kerri Kibbey, Director of Marketing, Special Events and Public Relations for High Risk Hope, since 2011 , “we have helped over 6,000 families in crisis.” And, the organization has expanded locally and nationally. “We are currently in four Tampa area hospitals: St Joseph’s Women’s Hospital, Tampa General Hospital, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and Sarasota Memorial Hospital,” she said. “We are also in 2 California hospitals, Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach and California Pacific Medical Center.”
High Risk Hope was a source of encouragement during the scariest time of my life. They helped me feel optimistic that I would get through this time and leave the hospital with a healthy baby. They introduced me to a community that I previously didn’t know existed. There is comfort and knowing you are not alone.
On November 7th, 2013, I achieved that goal and finally got to bring my son home. And it all came full circle. The next year, my healthy son was the cover baby for High Risk Hope’s 1st Baby Calendar. His photo was inspiring Moms on bedrest and giving hope for their own positive outcome. And this weekend we will celebrate by walking in the Tot Trot.
Raising big dollars for babies
“Last year, we raised over $65,000 and had over 800 Tot Trotters attend,” Kibbey explained. “This event brings awareness to the prematurity epidemic here in Florida and also brings our High Risk Hope families together in a celebration of their journey.”
And if you cannot join High Risk Hope this Saturday, the organization offers many ways to get involved in the fight for preemies such as sponsoring a family or their Books For Babies project that collects books to be included in each NICU knapsack. Studies have shown reading to babies improves growth and development in preemie.
Learn more about High Risk Hope, and get involved by visiting High Risk Hope.