In 2009, Afton Mower founded PreemieBabies101.com to provide a social hub where preemie parents could band together and help each other through the ups and downs of the NICU and raising preemie babies. She is the mother of two preemies and one full-term child. Afton lost her firstborn son (born at 21 weeks). A year and a half after his death, she gave birth to her daughter (27 weeks). After a 94-day NICU stay, she realized how isolated and alone she felt. It was that experience that led her to found this website. In 2012, she generously gifted PreemieBabies101.com to Hand to Hold.
Life after NICU, begun in October 2011, was founded and managed by three moms - Kelly Brinegar, Gena Brens, and Aimee Sprik - who saw a need for a support group for parents at all stages of the NICU experience – from pre-delivery until long after heading home… because the journey doesn’t end on discharge day. They created a website and online forum to provide parents with a safe space in which to share personal stories, ask questions, find resources and information, and process emotions about their experience. They wanted to help others in the NICU parent “club” realize that they were not alone. In less than two years time, the Life after NICU Facebook page exploded to over 10,000 followers. By September 2013, these moms decided it was time to devote more of their energies back to their families, and turned the community over to Hand to Hold to manage. Kelly, Gena, and Aimee remain actively involved in the parent support program they founded at Rush-Copley Medical Center – the Illinois hospital where their children were born.
We carry the torch from both of these parent groups to continue raising awareness and hope among NICU families. Hand to Hold’s founder, Kelli Kelley, is the mother of two preemies (24 and 34 weekers). She too, felt the isolation and made a commitment to find a way to help others in the same situation. Thus, Hand to Hold was born to serve all NICU families and those who have experienced loss. The lead blogger for the site, Kathryn Whitaker, is also the mother of two preemies, both born at 36 weeks. One evaded any complications, while her youngest suffered many, including a 44-day NICU stay. She will also share her experience and how she balances her busy family of seven in the process.
Hand to Hold is excited about this interactive forum and we invite you to follow along as we journey the prematurity path together, one day at a time.