Thomas was born on May 13, seven weeks before his due date. First time parents, Amanda and Tom were already nervous about their high risk pregnancy. They were seen at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital for appointments and planned that Thomas would be born in Iowa City. They knew there would be many first time moments, but were not expecting to have all of them. When Amanda’s water broke she had her first ambulance ride. Not being prepared, Tom rushed home to pack a few bags as the arrival of their first child was quickly approaching.
Thomas was delivered and transferred to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for a 19 day stay. He could not regulate his body temperature and struggled to suck and swallow sufficiently. These days were filled with many first moments, and even more unexpected decisions. Amanda remembers being emotionally and mentally drained. “When having a baby in the NICU, you exist day by day. The time was not a sprint but a marathon. The days were long but the time was short in perspective.” says Amanda as she reflects.
Tom and Amanda were very thankful for the close location and home-made meals they received at the Ronald McDonald House of Iowa City. “Being walking distance from the hospital was comforting” says Tom. They walked to see Thomas each day and had some time to process the day on the way home. The House was their refuge. They had access to quick and easy meals for lunch and breakfast and enjoyed the home cooked dinners each evening. The little things helped them to cope with those 19 long days.
Thankful the House was there to take some burdens off their shoulders, the Rauens were especially grateful for housing and transportation. They did not have to worry about where they were going to stay, how to navigate Iowa City, or how to pay a lodging bill. The fact that they could stay at no charge took off another stress. The inviting staff welcomed them with a tour and explained about community living. They were able to talk with other families and form a support system that sustained them through the new world of NICU and parenthood.