Meet the Parents: Real Families Talk About the Journey of Parenting
When Dana Murphy and I first connected, something she noted caught my attention and I wanted to hear more about her family:
“Being a mom, for me, was always the most important aspect of my life. We struggled with infertility, so it was a hard road to get pregnant. And then Sarah was born 10 weeks early, and weighed 2 pounds! It was terrifying but every moment has been worth it.”
When we next spoke, she explained more about her and Chris’ journey to becoming parents. She speaks openly about their struggles with fertility and talked about the long process of first becoming pregnant – two and a half years of hormones and IUI treatment (she describes it as the ‘turkey baster treatment’, not to be confused with IVF or the ‘petri dish treatment’).
When they finally heard the news they’d been waiting for, it seemed unreal. So unreal that Dana would not have believed she was pregnant if not for the tests confirming that little Sarah was indeed growing inside her. She wasn’t nauseous. There were no cravings. She didn’t feel much different.
But as the pregnancy went on, something happened around the 30-week mark. “I remember talking to someone at the office and I had my feet up, and they saw how swollen my feet were – ‘how do you even walk on those?! You’re going to be having this baby soon,’ they told me. I went to see the doctor and they took one look at me and sent me off for blood work, then told me to go to the hospital. I went there thinking that I was going for observations, but the nurse said instead that we were having this baby. I was so sick with preeclampsia,” (a serious pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and potential damage to organs; the only cure is delivery of the baby).
Dana, Chris and their medical staff were faced with the challenge of needing to deliver to avoid serious and possibly fatal complications for both mom and baby, but also wanting to provide more time for development of important things like Sarah’s lungs, organs and size. There were doses of steroids and tense moments monitoring Dana’s blood pressure. Eventually the doctor took Dana’s hand and declared that it was time to get her out. The experience was terrifying filled with bits and pieces of memories of an epidural and emergency C-section. Dana remembers hearing a voice: “It was Chris, but I don’t think I knew that at the time. The voice said someone wants to meet me, and I looked over to see her there and thought ‘what is she doing out here?’ and I was flooded with emotion.”
Sarah was just two pounds and needed a lot of support in the NICU to pull through. Dana awoke after the operation and their initial meeting, frustrated with the nurses for giving her a shot of morphine for her extreme pain, and demanded to go be with her daughter. She could barely stand, but hovered over Sarah’s incubator until a nurse gently asked if she would like to hold her. “I just recall crying and shaking, and this nurse asking if I’d like to hold my baby. She suggested that skin to skin would be beneficial so I ripped my gown off, and the nurse warmly joked that most people wait until the curtain is closed. And I held her small little body against mine and the beeping of our heart monitors slowed down as we both took a deep breath together. I would never wish the experience on another parent, but there was also something amazing and magical in how Sarah came to be.”
Sarah’s recovery, like her, was bold and nimble. She was strong and kept growing and growing, earning the name ‘NICU star’. She arrived at home two weeks before what was meant to be her due date, and continued to grow. Today, Sarah is almost six years old and starting Grade 1 in September. Her parents describe her as spirited, a mini-Dana of sorts. Bright, friendly and happy.
Four years after Sarah’s extraordinary welcome into the world, Chris and Dana had Jaron after another series of fertility treatments. Ever different than his big sister, he took his time to arrive and gave his mom an experience she’d never had in her pregnancy with Sarah: growing big enough inside her tummy that she could see the baby pushing and rolling from the outside.
Dana said something to me that stuck: “We had to do a c-section again and it came sooner than I wanted. I had worked so hard to become pregnant that I really wanted to enjoy every minute of it. I didn’t want it to be over.” The experience was so much different with Jaron as Dana could chat happily with the doctors and nurses through the planned operation. And she laughs at how gigantic he seemed at a respectable 7 pounds, 12 ounces – almost four times bigger than Sarah had been at birth.
Today, Sarah and Jaron are lively kids and loving (most times) siblings. Dana and Chris work full-time and they always expected that, so at some point after Sarah had arrived and was doing well they agreed to start looking at daycares. Chris came home one day with information on Kids & Company – a new centre opening in downtown Edmonton – and they were excited about the prospect of high-quality child care that could cater to their family with flexibility, corporate partnerships and an understanding of what it can be like to raise children in today’s world. “The facilities and programs and menus were so impressive,” Dana says. “We looked at a few other places but Kids & Company was the first child care centre we saw, and there wasn’t anything else that compared.”
Dana says balancing work and parenting can be difficult some days: “Some people might think we are having our kids raised by someone else. But we look at it more that the teachers and staff are part of our family; they are helping us raise them. And in a lot of ways, they are teaching them things we might not even think of! It’s an amazing experience.”
When I asked what Sarah and Jaron think of Kids & Company, Dana laughed and said they are pretty different kids – for Sarah, it’s the relationships. “It’s amazing to see her interact with her teachers, she feels safe and confident and comes home with so much excitement about the day. If she’s ever sluggish in the mornings I tell her if you don’t get going you can’t see your teachers today.” And Jaron? “For him, he’s all about the food and the art. Every day he comes home with drawings and sculptures and often something drawn on his arm or tummy – he’s always asking to colour colour colour and to get him going in the morning I say we’re off to Kids & Company for morning snack and he yells back, “YEAH SNACK!”
I can tell from the way Dana talks about her family and the journey they went through to become parents that they are careful not to take their family for granted. I asked what was something about becoming a mom that surprised Dana. “I think I was most surprised at how I was able to let go of things being done a certain way and how much more liberal I am. Here’s a story: When Sarah asked about how babies start to grow inside your body, we talked through the whole process and watched a 3D video of basically everything. But at the end you see a newborn being held by his mom for the first time and Sarah turned to me and said ‘It’s just so beautiful Mommy.’ It really stuck with me. And I couldn’t agree more.”
By: Melissa Sawatzky
Melissa lives in Calgary and is the Community Marketing Manager for Kids & Company in Alberta and BC. Her vision of what she would be like as a mom was shattered years ago when she discovered nothing ever goes as planned for parents, but laughter and community sees you through. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.