Motherhood & Words

September is NICU Awareness Month. The fact that I am posting this on the last day of the month is not lost on me. Between kids being sick and crazy work/writing schedules and life in general, it’s not surprising that I’m behind schedule. But as I lay on the couch this morning, alternately sweating and succumbing to chills—I, too, am now sick—I realized I needed to give a shout out to the families who right this minute are sitting next to their babies’ bedside, their hearts both breaking and full of hope. And I needed to give a shout out to the organizations and individuals who are supporting these parents, trying to ease the pain of their journey.

September is always the month that I’m pulled back in time to our own NICU experience, to those hours and days and weeks that Donny and I sat next to our tiny Stella, hoping hoping that she would be okay, that we would get to take her home soon. This year, on the anniversary of my diagnosis with severe preeclampsia and the night before Stella’s eleventh birthday, I stood at a podium at the Preeclampsia Foundation’s annual Saving Grace Gala in front of hundreds of people who had been touched by preeclampsia and who had spent hours, days, months holding tiny lives in their arms, praying.

It was an emotional night, full of stories of loss. (You can read the story of Baby Grace, for whom the gala was named, here.) But it was also full of stories of hope. And a call to action: What can we do to help, to make a difference, to stop this kind of loss?

Having a child in the NICU is like being catapulted into an alternate universe—a terrifying one. And sadly 10-13% of babies spend time in a NICU. Luckily there are organizations that are providing support to families with babies in the NICU. Eden’s Garden is a local Twin Cities organization that was born from loss, created in memory of Eden Bryn Hedin, a twin, who was born at 28 weeks and spent her entire life—241 days—in the NICU before she passed away in her parents’ arms. Scott and Amanda Hedin understand how difficult and heartbreaking having a child in the NICU can be, even if that child survives, so they started Eden’s Garden as a way to honor their daughter’s short life and to help families on a similar journey. They are hosting their annual fundraiser, Wine in the Garden, on October 10th at Cannon River Winery, so they can help more NICU families in need.

As you know, Stella is now a happy and healthy book-loving, soccer-obsessed eleven-year-old. (Her latest record for foot juggles is 117. You should see her out their on the sidewalk with her soccer ball, not willing to give up.) I know how lucky we are. But no one should have to start parenthood in the NICU. No baby should have to begin life attached to tubes and wires, surrounded by blaring alarms.

If you can, please support families who are living through that nightmare.

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I have been teaching creative writing for almost twenty years. Reading about other women’s lives and experiences has expanded my world. To be able to walk in someone else’s shoes, whether it’s for a moment or an hour or a few days, is an incredible gift, providing me with insight into the human experience. It takes courage to write your truths, especially if it doesn’t seem as though anyone cares, as though anyone is listening. Let me tell you: your stories matter, I’m listening, and I’m here to help you find the heart of those truths, to get them down on the page, to craft them, and to send them out into the world. Together, we will change the world, one story at a time.


  1. Sue on September 30, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    It’s astounding with all our medical advances that so many babies arrive prematurely. Here in Alberta it is 1 in 10. You are so right that no one should have to start their parenting journey in the NICU. Hugs to you and Stella.

    • Kate on October 1, 2014 at 7:43 am

      Thank you, Sue. It is astounding, isn’t it? Hugs right back at you!

  2. Amanda Hedin on September 30, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    Thank you so much for this awesome blog post Kate! Thank you for your support of Eden’s Garden’s mission and our Wine in the Garden event.

    • Kate on October 1, 2014 at 7:43 am

      My pleasure, Amanda! Thanks for the important work you do!

  3. Alison on October 1, 2014 at 6:02 am

    Is it coincidence that my twins were born in September, and we spent some part of it in NICU?

    I never thought I’d be in that place, but I know that we’re extremely lucky that our children are okay, and only spent 12 days (baby boy) and 14 days (baby girl) in there, and they’re home and healthy.

    Thank you for all the awareness campaigns, and organizations supporting this. And thank you, Kate.

    • Kate on October 1, 2014 at 7:44 am

      Oh Alison, I’ve been thinking so much of you all! And I’m so relieved that they’re both home now and doing well! Sending so much love!!

  4. Autumn on November 15, 2014 at 7:31 am

    This post is close to my heart. Even though I wasn’t there with M during her NICU stay, it’s still such a huge part of her story. I’ve sent a link to this post to a friend who recently gave birth to a premie and she was so thankful to know about your experience, that she wasn’t alone in her feelings and pain, and to know that goodness can come from these hard times. Her baby girl is finally home now! (I’m sending a copy of your book, too, when she’s ready to read).

    As you know, you’re such an inspiration to me and so many readers/writers. I’ve nominated you on my blog for the One Lovely Blog Award! A little honor, but one I wanted to bestow on you! If you want to pay it forward, then it’s simple:
    ~Thank the person who nominated you for the award.
    ~Add the One Lovely Blog logo to your post.
    ~Share 7 facts/or things about yourself.
    ~Nominate about 15 bloggers you admire and inform nominees by commenting on their blog.

    I hope all is well with you, your lovely family, and your incredible writing. Stay warm! XO

    • Kate on November 18, 2014 at 11:33 am

      Oh Autumn, thank you so much! This means a ton to me! (And thank you for sharing my blog and memoir with your friend. I’m glad to hear her daughter is home now. I hope everyone is doing okay!