According to March of Dimes, roughly 380,000 babies are born prematurely in the United States each year. This means that pre-term births affect one out of ten infants. With such a high prematurity rate, NICUs and special care nurseries are immensely vital to the U.S. healthcare system. One family who understands the importance of special care nurseries are the Haddelands.
Prior to giving birth in 2015, Kristen Haddeland was admitted to Sibley for hospital bed-rest due to pregnancy complications. Her daughter, Catie, was born via c-section at 34 weeks (six weeks premature) and was very sick for the first 12-24 hours of her life. She stayed in the SCN for two weeks.
With one young child at home and one in the SCN, Kristen felt pulled to be in two places at once. “The nurses and the doctors were amazing and we felt like Catie was in the best care when we couldn't be with her,” Kristen said of her experience. Kristen also described the difficulty of having a newborn in the hospital, “At first we couldn't hold her, and then, when we were finally able to, it was only for five minutes at a time. In our attempt to seek a bit of normalcy, we would read aloud to Catie in her isolette.”
After relying so heavily on reading to Catie during her time in the SCN, Kristen decided to start a book drive for the nursery as a way to say thank you to the staff at Sibley and provide comfort for families in a similar situation. The first year the book drive was so successful, Kristen and her family were able to create a library for parents to borrow books to read to their babies while in the SCN and books for graduates of the nursery to take home.
The following year, Kristen worked with Sibley's SCN Nurse Manager to determine what their needs were and how to meet them. Nurses in the unit asked Kristen for NICU coloring books—“Come Home Soon, Baby Brother/Sister” and “Rich and Creamy for Our Preemie”—to help older children understand where their new sibling is and why they can’t come home yet.
Each summer, Kristen seeks donations from family and friends for Catie’s Birthday Book Drive. In 2020, for Catie’s sixth birthday and the sixth book drive, Kristen and her family made care packages for over 40 SCN nurses and staff, as well as donated 50 NICU coloring books, 20 journals for families to record milestones and memories, and 30 take-home books for graduates.
With each passing year, Catie’s Birthday Book Drive yields more books and resources for the nursery. Kristen explains why the family decided to continue the drive each year: “Getting a chance to go back to the SCN and visit the same amazing people every year has been so special for our family. And they have gotten a chance to see how Catie has grown and changed each year. I look forward to our visit every year and hope that my kids continue our tradition of giving back on their birthdays. We are so very thankful to the staff of the Special Care Nursery that Catie is here with us to celebrate every year.”
If you want to learn more about premature birth, visit the links below.
Rich and Creamy for Our Preemie coloring book (available in both English and Spanish)
No Bigger than My Teddy Bear by Valerie Pankow (describes the NICU experience through the eyes of a new big brother)
The Invisible String by Patrice Karst (reassures children that even when loved ones are apart, they are always in each other’s hearts)
Hand to Hold sibling support activity pages and NICU video tour: www.HandToHold.org (provides resources and support to parents of preemies, babies with special health care needs and new parents who have lost a baby.)