Meet the Stewarts from Northeast Iowa! Melissa and Thomas have an eight year old son, a three year older daughter, and two year old twin boys.
Melissa was excited when she learned she was pregnant with twins. However, at her first appointment she learned this pregnancy would not be as easy as her first two. The twins were what are known as mono twins, meaning they shared an amniotic sack. Melissa had to be admitted to the hospital at 24 weeks gestation and knew she would deliver no later than 32 weeks.
Knowing that between Melissa and the twins they faced significant time in the hospital, the Stewarts needed to plan. Their family made the tough decision that Melissa would stay at the hospital alone during her inpatient hospitalization and remain in Iowa City while the twins grew in the NICU. Meanwhile Thomas would stay at home with the two older children and visit on the weekends.
For Melissa, she struggled knowing that the time she spent with the family meant her older kids would be playing on the floor in a small hospital space. She was missing all the little moments of home like sitting down to dinner with her family. To complicate the situation, their older son was afraid of the hospital room and became anxious about visiting. With both parents feeling overwhelmed, Melissa was told about the Ronald McDonald House of Iowa City and decided to call.
From the moment she walked in the door, the feel and environment of RMH gave Melissa a sense of normalcy. Melissa was grateful for the playroom, outside swing on the deck, the loft, the board games, and family activities. She knew that her older son would love and enjoy all the toys in the toy room. It didn’t take him long to feel comfortable and at home on his first weekend. One day at school, he even drew a picture of visiting his mom at the Ronald McDonald House. She knew then that things were going to be okay.
Having prepared meals and a location within walking distance gave her extra time with the twins. Melissa would grab healthy snacks for the day and take a break when she needed. The thought and care donors, staff, and volunteers put into the little things helped her to take care of herself. “It was easy to forget about myself. But I knew if I didn’t take care of myself, then I wasn’t able to take care of my kids and would be run down.” says Melissa.
While at RMH, Melissa created friendships with other parents with whom she was able to share experiences and support. This lifted Melissa’s spirits and gave her strength during one of the most stressful times she has known.
Since their initial stay the Stewarts have stayed multiple times for feeding therapy and appointments. The feeding therapist was able to come to the Ronald McDonald House of Iowa City to help with dinner time. Since the twins felt like they were at home and therefore acted more naturally, the therapist was able to give more specific guidance and direction.