Sarah smith and her husband holding their newborn daughter

The Gift of Being Close to My Baby by Sarah Smith

What a wonderful experience to give back to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Texas for giving me and my family so much. I was truly grateful to give moms staying at the Ronald McDonald House the gift of a manicure on Valentine’s Day and doing this touched my heart in many ways.
After I finished the manicures and left the Ronald McDonald House, I went to the NICU at Seton Medical Center Austin to deliver the remaining 20 gift bags to mothers with babies in the NICU. I had not been back to the hospital since my daughter, Jocelyn, was born two years ago. The moment I stepped into the NICU where she was taken after she was born, tears instantly ran down my face. The second I gave birth she was immediately taken from me and was sent straight upstairs to the NICU. I didn’t get to see her for hours. When I finally got to see her, it was incredibly precious to me. Memories came flooding back to me and I kept thinking about how small and brittle she was laying in that little clear cart. When I had her, I wanted to be one of those moms who could keep her baby in the hospital room and have regular visitors welcome her. For us, that wasn’t the case.
Because we knew I was delivering early at 34 weeks, I was transferred to Seton in Austin from Seton Williamson since we knew our baby girl was going to be in the NICU. I was terrified of all the things that could happen, how long she was going to stay there, the many trips I would have to take going back and forth and so on. I remember asking the ambulance driver if he could take me somewhere closer because I wanted to be close to my baby if she had to stay awhile. 
After a few days, I was discharged from the hospital and Jocelyn was going to have to stay longer. My heart felt instantly crushed and I asked the nurse if I could just stay in the chair next to her all night in the NICU. She smiled and said “one second, I may have something better.”  A lady told me about the Ronald McDonald Family Room and how it worked. If I qualified, I could stay a week — but I actually ended up staying there longer. They took me upstairs to my own sleep room in the Ronald McDonald Family Room and a feeling of comfort filled my entire body. I was walking distance from my baby. I had a room that was so comfy and welcoming and I even made great friends with another family who was staying across the hall. I felt so at home and not in a hospital at all. Everything was just so cozy but most importantly, I was only minutes away from Jocelyn.
We were then given so many donations, meals and snacks, an American Girl Doll and so much more but the only gift I am forever grateful for is the one Ronald McDonald House Charities gave to my family and that was that very special room! The gift of being down the hall from my newborn baby girl, making it so easy to get to her for feedings and back quickly to sleep as much as I could, made a world of difference. 
So thank you! Thank you to everyone involved in this amazing home for parents! You all truly make a huge impact on all of our lives forever! My sweet 4-pound baby girl is now 2 years old and as healthy as can be! We will forever be grateful!