Founder, Hand to Hold - Kelli D. Kelley (TX) is the mother of two preemies – Jackson born at 24 weeks in 2000 and Lauren born at 34 weeks in 2003. She is the founder of Hand to Hold, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated providing support and navigation resources to families who had a preemie, who had a child in the NICU or with a special healthcare need, or who experienced loss. She has experienced the emotional fallout and isolation that having preemies often causes. As a direct result, Kelli has dedicated her life to offering hope and sanctuary to all parents who have had similar journeys. Contact her via email.
Online Community Coordinator, Preemie Babies 101 Lead Blogger - Leigh Ann Torres is a freelance writer, blogger and mother of three living in Austin, TX. After a short and sudden bout with severe preeclampsia, Leigh Ann’s identical twin girls were delivered at 31 weeks, spending 38 mostly uneventful days in the NICU. Two years later the Torres family welcomed another baby, this time at term, with only a mild case of preeclampsia. Leigh Ann currently runs Hand to Hold’s official blog and social media channels. When she’s not doing laundry or fulfilling requests for snacks, she usually has her nose stuck in a book. You can keep in touch with Leigh Ann on Twitter or via email.
Kayla Aimee (GA) is the mom of a micro-preemie, Scarlette, who was born at 25 weeks gestation at just 1lb 8.6 ozs and spent 156 days in the NICU, facing a myriad of issues from PDAs to milk protein intolerance to sensory processing disorder. Scarlette is now a feisty four year old who spends her post-NICU days charming everyone she meets.
Kayla Aimee is the author of Anchored: Finding Hope in the Unexpected, a memoir detailing their journey with prematurity, born from her love of writing and her passion for providing support for parents of preemies.
Kari Akin is a mother to 2 full term girls, Madylin and Layla, angel baby Annabelle, and NICU grad Nolan. Nolan was born at 24 weeks gestation and weighed just 1 pound, 1 ounce (that's smaller than a bottle of coke people!). In his 128 days in the NICU, Nolan was on a ventilator for 8 weeks, had 9 blood transfusions, 2 rounds of sepsis, renal failure, double inguinal hernias, ROP and ROP surgery, and came home on continuous Oxygen. He is currently on Oxygen only at night and has minimal health issues. All of the Akin children are known to be strong willed, mud rollers, and tree climbers. Their micro-preemie is no exception. In addition to raising 3 rambunctious kids, Kari has also been teaching special education for over a decade. She hopes her experience as a working mom to a micro + 2 will help other families.
Jennifer Beatty (TX) is the mother of two active boys born early and a social worker employed by Hand to Hold. With her first son, she delivered at 36 weeks and experienced a brief overnight stay in the NICU for blood sugar issues. After fertility issues with her second pregnancy, Jennifer was devastated to have an emergency delivery at 30 weeks due to severe pre-eclampsia. Though her younger son only weighed 2 pounds 9 ounces at birth, he came home after 45 days in the NICU at just over 5 pounds and is a strong and healthy preschooler.
Kaleena Berryman (NJ) is mom to Jharid, born at 24 weeks, in April 2012. After five months in the NICU battling complications such as ROP, BPD, Grade 3 brain bleeds and NEC, Jharid came home to his mom and dad a healthy, happy, thriving boy. Even though “Mom” is her most treasured title, Kaleena is also a writer, poet, mentor, and Program Coordinator for the Abbott Leadership Institute at Rutgers Newark. She wants to help other preemie parents develop their advocacy voice. Kaleena has a B.S. in Communication from William Paterson University and a M.S. in Public Administration from Rutgers University. She is the founder of a preemie parent support blog. Connect with her on Facebook.
Kristin Beuscher (NJ) is the mother of Evelyn, born prematurely at 28 weeks due to chronic placental abruption. Evelyn weighed 2 pounds, 7 ounces at birth and spent 68 days in the NICU before coming home on oxygen. Today she is a perfectly healthy child. Kristin spent 10 years in journalism, most recently as editor of two weekly northern New Jersey newspapers, before becoming a stay-at-home mom in 2012. She seeks to provide hope for parents still in the NICU, as well as for those struggling with PTSD, anxiety or depression following the experience. Connect with her on Facebook.
Angela “Angie” Bickford (TX) is the mother of triplets born just shy of 28 weeks and weighing only 2lbs. 5oz. each. Sadly, baby A only lived for 49 days, but she and her husband make it their mission to celebrate his short life by helping others who have lost children. She spent 111 days total in the NICU, and between her three children, has experienced NEC, brain bleeds and hydrocephalus, reflux/GERD, sensory issues, daily therapies, and several trips back to the hospital. She is a speaker, published author, and blogger. On her personal blog, she talks about loss, faith and her obsession with cupcakes. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest or via email.
Ima is a blogger, Influencer, Entrepreneur and Speaker- she is also married to a wonderful man and is the mother of Jaxson, now 13 months old. After 2 weeks of unexpected complications, Ima went into preterm labor delivering her baby boy at 22 weeks, 6 days. He was given a 20% chance of survival but through Faith, hope, love and prayer from their Village, Jaxson showed that he was a true miracle and fought to live. Their NICU journey would go on to last 119 long days before Jaxson was discharged. Through her pain and personal journey of being a preemie mom she began blogging and encouraging other parents through social media. Her goal and passion is to, inspire and uplift parents who are experiencing lifes difficulties in and out of the NICU. On her personal blog, Miracle Wife, she not only provides inspiration, but also tips and advice. She has also been published on The Mighty and Her View From Home and is just getting started on expanding her career as a writer.
You can keep up with Ima on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
Amy Carr (TX) is a parent of a late-term preemie, Ella, born at 35 weeks. After an uneventful pregnancy, Ella's early birth and the complications that followed were a shock. Now in elementary school, her daughter is doing well and Amy enjoys using her writing, marketing and communications acumen on behalf of nonprofits and charitable causes. Formerly a founding staff member at Hand to Hold, you can reach Amy via email.
Julie Cruz (PA) is a stay-at-home-mom to four wonderful children and she enjoys spending her days with them. She and her husband are currently in the process of adopting a child from Haiti. She loves volunteering in the NICU as a mentor mom, conversing with other parents and bringing them special surprises. She is the author of “Tiny Feet,” a book about her NICU journey and things she learned along the way.
Parijat Deshpande (CA) is a micropreemie mom and the leading perinatal wellness expert who specializes in working with women during a high-risk pregnancy. She educates and guides women on how to manage their stress and anxiety so they can have healthier pregnancies, decrease their risk of preterm birth and give their baby a healthy start to life. Parijat is a clinically trained therapist, a women’s wellness expert and an experienced speaker on the impact of stress on health and wellness.
Lesley Donaldson-Reid (ON, Canada) is a nurse and writer whose personal blog focuses on her life, special needs and travel with her family. Lesley is the author of Growing A Rainbow, the painful and uplifting narrative about Torran, born at 26 weeks and 6 days from sub-chorionic bleeds and oligohydramnios. Torran has hydrocephalus from grade 3 & 4 IVH, PVL, autism, audio dys-synchrony hearing loss & cerebral palsy (and other medical stuff). Connect with Lesley: Twitter, Facebook , Pinterest, & Google+.
Danielle Dreger (WA) is an ex-30 week preemie and the mom of a
micro-preemie boy born at 27 weeks after she developed HELLP. Theo
weighed 1 lb, 13oz and was 13 inches long and spent over 200 days in
the NICU/hospital with severe lung damage from complications from a
PDA ligation, a superbug, pneumonia and prematurity. Now Theo is a
happy and vocal toddler who loves “organizing,” reading, and chasing
his dogs. When not working as a teen librarian or working on her YA
novel, Danielle is chasing Theo, traveling with family, and trying to
squeeze in a nap.
Kimberly is the mother of Abbey, 14, who suffered multiple disabilities as the result of a traumatic delivery. In 2009, she and her husband Ryan also delivered a stillborn son as the result of a chord accident. In 2015, she and her husband adopted Ellie who was born prematurely and drug addicted. They have four children now, two with special needs. Kimberly has a degree in Elementary Education and teaches part time. In addition to her blog, she is co-author with Jocelyn Green of the book Refresh: Spiritual Nourishment for Parents of Children with Special Needs, which released in September of 2016.
Alison (TX) has one child, James. He was delivered by emergency c-section at 22 weeks 6 days gestation, he weighed 15oz. and was 10 ½ inches long. He endured a 160-day NICU stay with 4 surgeries and multiple complications. He is now an active 5 year old who recently started Kindergarten! You may connect with her on her personal blog, Facebook or email, email@example.com. She hopes to encourage change in hospital policy so babies born at less than 23 weeks gestation will be given a chance at life.
Rhiannon Giles is an overwhelmed mother who only occasionally considers giving her children to the circus. Her daughter, born in 2010, was a full term induction due to Cholestasis of Pregnancy. Because she likes a full range of experiences she went with partial abruption and severe Preeclampsia for her second pregnancy. Rowan was born in 2015 via an urgent c-section at 31 weeks and 5 days, and spent 40 days in the NICU. Rhiannon has a sarcasm problem and writes regularly at rhiyaya.com . To keep up with new posts and see some of her favorites, join her on Facebook. To read more about Rowan's story, head over to rowan.small.and.mighty.
Alden Gilligan (NM) is the mom of girl/boy twins born at 31 weeks. She delivered after being diagnosed with HELLP syndrome after an otherwise completely healthy pregnancy. Her twins were in the NICU for 78 days and are now almost 7 months old and doing well despite a bout with NEC, GERD, and hernia repairs. Alden jokes that she is "retired" but is a stay at home mom who enjoys spending time outdoors with her kids, baking, playing soccer, and blogging in her spare time. You can read her blog here, and find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest
LaShanda Gordon (GA) is a freelance medical writer and the proud mom of triplets and a 'tween. Her preemie journey began when her BGG triplets were delivered at 29 weeks by emergency c-section due to unexplained PPROM. Although the triplets entered the world fast and furiously, their 46-day NICU stay was fairly uneventful with feeding, growing, and respiratory support as the primary focus. Today the triplets are pint-sized toddler personalities who adore their big sister to the moon and back. On her personal blog, Happiness is a Noun, LaShanda writes about the joys, pains, and CERTIFIABLE craziness of life with triplets and a 'tween. There she also shares her thoughts on faith, family, wellness, and career. You can connect with LaShanda through email, Facebook, Pinterest, and her personal blog.
Erika Goyer (TX) is the parent of three sons. Her first son, Carrick Michael, was born in 1990 at 27 weeks gestation and weighing 1 pound, 14 ounces. He died soon after his birth due to complications, including Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN). Erika went on to have two more high-risk pregnancies and two healthy sons. Her oldest son experienced developmental delays. He was diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum and has special health and educational needs. Erika is the Education Director for Hand to Hold where she shares her passion for helping parents gather the skills they need to be both nurturing caregivers and powerful advocates for their children.
Cristal Grogan (MD) is the mother of Seth, who was born at 29 weeks weighing 2lbs 4oz due to severe preeclampsia, HELLP, and IUGR. As a military wife, Cristal and her husband were living in southern Spain at the time. Seth’s NICU stay was complicated as he battled NEC, ROP, IVH, PDA, Sepsis and PVL, but Seth defied all odds. He is now a happy and healthy 3 year old avid reader living with Autism and SPD. After navigating through the NICU life in a foreign country, amidst a language barrier and lacking proper resources or support system, Cristal swore to become involved in the preemie community to make sure no other parent was left in the same desperate situation. Currently, she is the Administrative Assistant for Preemie Parent Alliance and social media volunteer for It’s a Preemie Thing. In her personal blog, she describes the daily life of a military family with a special needs child.
Summer (MS) delivered her son 14 weeks early in July 2010 as a result of preterm labor, and he was in the NICU for 3 months. She unexpectedly developed severe preeclampsia with her daughter, almost had her in another state while on vacation, and delivered her 11 weeks premature in January 2013. Both babies weighed 2.5 pounds, and they were in the same NICU for a combined 150 days. Summer, a journalism instructor, is writing a book about her family's NICU years.
Heather Hucks (NC) is the mother to a 24 weeker, Tucker, who weighed 1 lb 7oz at birth and spent 151 days in the NICU. She still balks at the sound of a fast food fry machine alarm that sounds eerily just like a brady alarm and has come to learn that Tucker’s NICU list of complications is somewhat mild when it comes to a 24 weeker. So far, he has no major issues from his prematurity. Heather has also learned to resist sneaking a peek at the playbook for life. She has seen through this experience that she isn’t the author and doesn’t write the plays. She works full time, blogs about her family, and tries to limit cupcakes to one a day. You can read about her parenting rookie stunts at Team Hucks or find her on Facebook.
Shoshana Koch (MN) is the mother of Luca, born at 26 weeks weighing only 1 lb. 13 oz., due to unexplained PPROM. After 151 days in the NICU, Luca came home with a tracheotomy, ventilator dependent, G-Tube dependent, and 24-hour home care nursing. Shoshana pumped and was able to exclusively breastfeed her son for several months, a dream she held even in the grief of his untimely birth. Today, he is a trach-free, healthy, energetic toddler! Shoshana is a clinical social worker starting a private practice so that she may still attend to Luca’s needs while reclaiming her career life. Shoshana chronicle’s her son’s life, and other personal musings, in a blog called Early Light .
Carolyn (Ontario, Canada) is a mother of three premature children. In 2008 her first son arrived at 31 weeks; she trusted her instincts and made it to the hospital in time. In 2010, she had identical twin boys at 27 weeks. The twins' NICU stays lasted 3 months and just shy of 4 months. During this time Carolyn felt extremely isolated and began to reach out via social media. On her personal blog, she writes about raising preemies, twins and parenting topics; you can also find her on Twitter. Currently, she is a peer health worker in her local multiples organization, Chairs Multiple Births Canada’s Preterm Birth Support Network and joined the Board of Directors of Canadian Premature Babies Foundation.
Laura Maikata (MI) is mom to three fantastically unique children, the youngest of whom was born at 23 weeks due to preterm labor. Within months of finishing a MA in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), Laura found herself as a student, instead of teacher, of a different kind of foreign language – the language of medical professionals. In the NICU her son, nicknamed "JAM." had surgeries for a PDA, NEC and AP-ROP. More on JAM's tenacity for life can be found on Laura's blog or on Twitter.
Karee Marsh (IL) had her first and only child at just 26 weeks gestation due to Incompetent Cervix. He was born 2lbs 7ozs and had a very uneventful albeit long 103-day NICU stay in 2013. In addition to being a stay-at-home mom, Karee helps run her family's honeybee supplier business (son in tow), keeps honeybees herself and has blogged since she was a teenager. Her passions include informing families and friends on how to best support NICU parents, as well as those dealing with Incompetent Cervix issues.
Laura B. Martin (GA) is the NICU Ambassador Director at Graham’s Foundation and keeps parents connected with their NICU by serving as a liaison between the NICU and the foundation. She is a former middle and high school teacher and is now mom to Joseph, Campbell, and Emily. Joseph and Campbell, fraternal twins, were born at 24 weeks gestation. Campbell lived for 23 beautiful days. Joseph spent 228 days in the NICU and also experienced a near fatal bout with NEC that left him with Short Bowel Syndrome. He also has a g-tube, auditory neuropathy, hypotonic cerebral palsy, asthma, vision impairment, hypothyroidism and multiple food allergies. Even still, he is a happy and active child. Laura can be reached via email or her personal blog.
Kathy McClelland (TX) is mom to two beautiful boys and both spent an extended period of time in the NICU. Her first was a 34-week preemie. Early in her pregnancy she suffered two pulmonary emboli, which revealed two blood disorders. Then late pre-term she developed preeclampsia and HELLP Syndrome. Baby one weighed 4 lbs, 14 oz and was a feeder/grower spending three weeks in the NICU. Baby two was a surprise on multiple levels. Hoping to not repeat the NICU experience a second time, she delivered a 5 lb, 9 oz baby at 37 weeks. However, he was soon diagnosed with a rare syndrome and spent two months in two different NICUs. She writes about faith and finding beauty and hope on her personal blog.
Melissa McMurchy (OH) is the mother of twin daughters, Brooklynn and Kendall, born three months early, weighing 1.4 and 2.7 pounds. Brooklynn coasted through all milestones and is currently only behind in speech. Kendall, with an eleven-month hospital stay, is a bit spunkier with three broken bones, multiple blood transfusions and six surgeries under her belt. The journey has been long, but the lessons many. Melissa is a lover of sports, the smell of rain and miracles. You can follow her on Twitter or on her personal blog, Two Miracles.
Andrea Mullenmeister (MN) is a stay-at-home-mom for a little adventurer. Jaxson decided to meet the family while they were on vacation! After a terrifying helicopter ride, Jax was born at 23 weeks 3 days weighing 1lb 8oz. He suffered from severe ROP, humongous inguinal hernias, Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia and severe hyspospadias. After 93 days in the NICU, Jax came home. He is a happy and mostly healthy toddler with only minor issues. Andrea volunteers on a parent advisory council for "Jax's" NICU and shares their story to give other parents hope. She writes about the life of her micropreemie at An Early Start. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Beth Puskas (NY) is a children's librarian and has one child, Benjamin, born by emergency c-section at 29-weeks after Beth developed severe preeclampsia in 2013. Ben also was born with a cleft lip and palate. He came home after a 68-day stay in the NICU and spent the next year having his cleft lip and palate repaired. Despite a global developmental delay, Ben is a thriving, happy, toddler who loves to laugh. Beth hopes to use her experience to help other families.
David (TX) is the father of his daughter, Sloane, who was born at 30 weeks and one day. After spending six weeks in the antepartum unit of the hospital making sure his wife didn't sneeze, cough, cry, or laugh, Sloane's entry into this world could not be denied. David entered fatherhood and the NICU community where he soon realized the learning curve was quite a bit higher than simply learning how to change his first diaper. Despite having to deal with a self-proclaimed clueless first-time NICU dad, Sloane continues to flourish. David enjoys writing about his experiences of learning how to be "dada" and sharing his perspective with his NICU family.
Katie Reginato Cascamo lives in San Luis Obispo, California and shares an active life with her husband John and 6-year-old son Giovanni born at 30 weeks, 3 days at 2lbs, 8oz. Katie unexpectedly developed pre-eclampsia and was airlifted from her home in Southern Oregon to a Children’s Miracle Network hospital in Medford, Oregon where she spent 56-days with her son in the NICU. Giovanni quickly became a feeder/grower in the NICU without a complication though has spent countless hours in Early Intervention therapies.
Katie Reginato Casamo recently graduated with her Master of Arts Organizational Leadership with a concentration in Servant-Leadership, She is the founder of Courageous Steps, providing leadership to organizations who care for families experiencing prematurity or special needs.
Thomas Eric Ruthford (WA) is the father of one child, Gabriel, who was born at 22 weeks and 6 days of gestation, setting a record for most immature survivor to come out of his NICU, the busiest one in the state. Thomas and his wife, Miri, live in Washington state. Thomas was a newspaper reporter in the late 90s, and is now a non-profit manager. He has also served in the U.S. Peace Corps in Ukraine, teaching English as a foreign language. He is working on a book about Gabriel, and how neonatal care developed. You can find him on Twitter @MicroPreemieDad, or his personal blog.
Brittany Shives is the mother of a preemie, Sadie, who was born at 33 weeks after Brittany's water unexpectedly broke on Labor Day in 2013. Sadie weighed a whopping 4 lbs. 15 oz. Brittany and her husband lived in an RV in the parking lot of the hospital for 17 days until they were able to bring Sadie home. After some postpartum complications, a D&C revealed Brittany had a uterine septum, a very large wall inside her uterus. Brittany is currently going through the steps to remove the wall and prepare for future babies and is taking a break from her job as an elementary school teacher to be a stay-at-home mom. She also blogs on her personal blog, Ever, Ever After.
Stacey Skrysak (IL) is a news anchor and blogger, who resides in Illinois. She is mother to Peyton, her lone surviving triplet. Through her experience, Stacey has helped thousands of others dealing with issues such as infertility, grief and life in the NICU. She has opened up her life to people around the world, keeping her new friends updated through her blog Perfectly Peyton.
Jessica Thomas is a mom to three girls, two of whom were preemies. Ella, born at 35 weeks due to placental abruption, weighed over 6 lbs and spent a mere three days in the NICU. Her middle daughter was overdue and weighed 10 pounds! Her youngest, one year old Lydia, was born via VBAC at 27 weeks and weighed 2 lbs 7 oz. She spent 79 days in the NICU. Before becoming a stay at home mom, Jessica was a teacher and holds a Master’s degree in early childhood education. She is particularly interested in breastfeeding and chronicles her NICU pumping and nursing journey on her personal blog.
Shanna Thompson (IN) is a Local Outreach Director at a large church on the northside of Indianapolis. In April of 2014 she developed severe and early on-set pre-eclampsia during her first pregnancy, which led to the delivery of her daughter at 27 weeks, weighing 1lb 15oz. After an 84 day NICU stay Shanna enjoys connecting with and helping other NICU moms in their own journey through the NICU.
Jessie Threlkeld is mother to Breanna, a former 32 weeker. Jessie's uneventful pregnancy came to a screeching halt due to unexplained PPROM. Due to breathing and eating complications Bree had a much longer NICU stay than anticipated with a total of three discharges from the NICU. The two struggled through the ups and downs of breastfeeding, performing CPR and learning the ropes of bringing a preemie home. Jess and her husband Nate have made it their passion to encourage and support preemie parents, and find ways to help those that want to breastfeed. Jessie is passionate about encouraging NICU moms through their journey, as well as, finding natural solutions for common preemie issues. Check out her blog for tips on surviving in the NICU and beyond.
Melanie (MD) is the proud mother of twin micro-preemie girls, Abigail and Elizabeth. In addition to her responsibilities and joys as a mother, she is a kindergarten teacher with a Master's Degree in Early Childhood Education. Abigail and Elizabeth were born at 26 weeks weighing 1lb11oz and 2lbs4oz. They spent four months in the NICU where they battled everything from grade 4 brain bleeds, chronic lung disease, hydrocephalus, and feeding issues. Post discharge, Elizabeth was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and Abigail with a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and both attend weekly therapy sessions. Today, they are happy and active two-year olds who continue to wow everyone they meet. Melanie writes about her experiences on her personal blog and enjoys talking to new preemie moms and giving any advice she can.
Kara (CA) is a marriage and family therapist/art therapist located in southern California. Since the preterm birth of her twin sons Elliott and William at 26 weeks and the loss of William at six days old, she's made it her mission to try and use her skills as a therapist to reach out to help, empower, and nurture other families going through the NICU experience. She loves art, exploring, literature, music and doing wild and wooly projects with her son and husband. You can learn more about her on her website, NICUHealing, as well as her personal website. You can follow her on Facebook or Twitter.