Before Norah was born, we were given a tour of both the NICU and the Ronald McDonald House. Being naively optimistic, we approached both from the perspective of, "Thanks for showing us, but those are for other people."
Turns out, we were the 'other people'.
Because of Norah's Trisomy 13 diagnosis, she spent the entirety of her time on earth in the NICU at Children's Hospital in Minneapolis. Those 5 days spent with Norah before she returned to heaven will forever hold a special place in our hearts. The memories we have are filled with joy, sadness, and so much love — many memories that wouldn't have been possible had it not been for the incredible support we received from the Ronald McDonald House.
Even during the first few days while I was admitted to the hospital, Lane and I were welcomed with open arms into the RMH for meals and to gather loved ones just steps away from our new baby girl. Once I was discharged from the hospital, we were able to spend two nights in the RMH. For Norah's entire life, we never once left the hospital.
I remember walking into the RMH for the first time and simultaneously feeling an overwhelming sense of relief while also having reality punch me square in the face; I had to come to terms with the realization that we really are the 'other people' who have bad things happen to their babies; we are the 'other people' who don't get fairytale endings; we are the 'other people' who need the support of an organization like this.
I looked at each individual in the RMH and wondered what their stories were, wondered if their hearts were breaking too. I saw pain, exhaustion, various states of recovery, and fear on the faces of so many fellow families in crisis.
But I also saw love.
The Ronald McDonald House offered us so much.
We gathered there.
We would sit around the fireplace with family and friends, going through pictures of Norah’s birth, proudly showing off our baby girl before taking them back individually to meet her. (NICU visitation rules in the height of flu season are a whole thing).
We ate there.
We enjoyed meals prepared by volunteers that nourished your soul in the way only food made with love can. No cafeteria food will ever live up to the meals served with the care and compassion of those served in the RMH.
Simply being able to have breakfast meant the world to me. I can still smell the warm aroma of cinnamon raisin bread – a scent that takes me right to my Grandparents' house.
When meals weren't being served, we could eat leftovers or peruse the fully-stocked pantry for whatever we needed.
Lane's favorite part was the never-empty pot of hot black coffee.
We survived there.
Our room was like a cozy hotel room fully stocked with every necessity we didn't know we forgot. It was all perfectly accessible — ideal for a person recovering from major abdominal surgery.
And the bed.
After spending three nights on hospital beds, this bed felt like I just laid down on a cloud. Maybe it was the quality of the bed, or maybe it was the extreme level body/mind exhaustion, but I have never experienced sleep like that.
Our room also had a direct line to the NICU nurses so they could get ahold of us even if we turned our cell phones off.
There is something about walking into the RMH that feels like coming home.
There's a solid wooden house door marking the entrance, delineating the border between hospital and peaceful space much in the way a cathedral door marks the sacred. The space is warm and filled with natural light, the interior design inviting and homey. The whole experience causes you to, ever so briefly, imagine yourself at the home of a loved one, no longer in the chaos of the hospital.
The RMH is a place full of food, love, family, and comfort; it's a place to gather, connect, and survive.
What I remember the most about the RMH is the love we felt.
It's a sacred space — a space where love is holding up those in their time of need.
It truly is "The house that love built."
How you can support the RMH:
The RMH wouldn’t be able to care for families such as ours without the hours of help from volunteers or the financial support of donations. There aren’t words to express the amount of gratitude we have for every hour, every dollar donated that supported us during the hardest experience of our lives.
On August 5th (my birthday, thanks Norah!), we are participating in the 2017 Race for the Kids Family Walk as Team Norah. Join us in person and walk, run, or skate with us — or join us financially by making a donation to RMH today!
"Though she be but little, she is fierce." – Wm. Shakespeare.
We're selling shirts! All profits benefit the Ronald McDonald House – MN. Click here to order yours! There are multiple styles and colors, so get your favorite one today.
We ask for your support for not only this great cause, but for the thousands of families that will walk through their doors in their time of greatest need. Families like ours.
On behalf of all of the RMH families, and the "other people" – we thank you.
XOXO – Lane, Joanna, and Norah.