The journey leading up to the birth of Eritrea-Freya Swaby was full of emergencies, bed rest, and a stay at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. First time parents Austin and Tonika went to their doctor in Mason City where Tonika was diagnosed with an incompetent cervix at 19 weeks. To avoid a miscarriage, doctors had to place cervical cerclage which is a type of stitch to prevent the cervix from opening too early. Tonika was immediately placed on bedrest, but three weeks later her water broke and was transferred to Iowa City. Between when her water broke and giving birth, Tonika spent an additional four weeks on bedrest. At only 26 weeks, Eritrea-Freya was born weighing barely two pounds. “She was tiny, but mighty!” said Tonika. Eritrea-Freya needed to stay under medical care until she reached 39 weeks gestation. That meant Austin and Tonika needed a place to stay for at least the next three months.
Austin and Tonika checked into the Ronald McDonald House of Iowa City and stayed just down the street from their newborn daughter. Austin had to go back to work, so for a majority of the time it was just Tonika and Eritrea-Frey, “I was able to be with my daughter on her journey every day. Austin was able to visit once every two weeks, and I always looked forward to him staying with me at the Ronald McDonald House so we could be together.” After long days at the hospital, Tonika knew there was always something she could count on. “I’d spend hours at the hospital talking with doctors or spending all day in Eritrea-Freya’s room. But one thing that I could always look forward to was the 5:30 pm dinner at the Ronald McDonald House every day! It was a perfect end to an otherwise stressful day.”
Today, Tonika still thinks of the Ronald McDonald House as a second home, “I was always so well taken care of. Everyone from the full-time staff to the volunteers took the time to see how I was doing and if I had everything that I needed.” Those types of daily interactions gave Tonika faith and kept her believing that the best is yet to come. “I could always depend on RMH to come through and be there for me even on the roughest days.”