Meet Jessica Olsen and Erin Koelliker: two moms who’ve both experienced triumph and heartbreak within the walls of the University of Utah Hospital NICU. Determined to bring hope to other NICU parents, they created a non-profit that delivers gifts and educational materials to families in need, fittingly named Helping NICU Mamas.
Helping NICU Mamas
Helping NICU Mamas, was born late one night, several years ago. As two former NICU Moms, Jessica & Erin found themselves up late one night reminiscing about how they made it through their difficult hospital journey.
“We know how hard it is to be in the hospital, and we thought that, especially during the holidays, families could really use some extra love and support, which is how we came up with Helping NICU Mamas,” explained Olsen. “We decided to ‘play Santa’ to these dear NICU families, and had the privilege of delivering kits filled with warm socks, hand-written cards, tiny diapers, magazines, and best of all, messages of hope and encouragement to a few local children’s hospitals. We embraced a few of the parents who were spending their holidays in the hospital, and as gifts and tears were shared between parents who’ve been there and parents who were there, the sentiment that resounded loudest was, ‘you are not alone.’
There is great power in the love shared between mothers who truly understand how difficult a NICU stay can be. We hope to remind them that the sun will shine and life will go on again, hopefully someday soon.
The mamaRoo, My Faithful Partner
“As we prepared for our next round of deliveries to NICU families, I thought back to my NICU experience and the difficult transition home – especially with twins. Thankfully, I was lucky enough to have an amazing partner – my husband, yes, but more importantly, my mamaRoo. My fussiest baby, William, immediately went into the bouncer and he was fast asleep within a matter of minutes. For the next 12 months, my mamaRoo served as my faithful partner, holding the baby I couldn’t hold. I have such sacred memories of long nights spent in the living room, listening to the quiet hum of my trusty mamaRoo as it stood by my side, while I learned how to be a twin Mother. I mean it wholeheartedly when I say, I couldn’t have survived the first year of my twins’ life without it.
How amazing would it be to gift mamaRoos to other NICU families? So, I reached out to 4moms to see if they would be willing to help, and they were more than generous.”
Delivering Hope to NICU Families
Their second delivery was their largest and it served as a homecoming of sorts for both of Jessica and Erin. The University of Utah Hospital is where Jessica lived while on hospitalized bed rest with her first child and is also where Erin delivered all three of her sons.
“We were fortunate to talk with over twenty families on the day of our delivery – the most that we have ever had the chance to meet – and we met some remarkable babies. We also met more adoptive parents and many who had other children and were splitting their time between home and the hospital.
The highlight of our effort was gifting several mamaRoos and 4moms infant tubs to a few special families in need. We were so honored to meet these courageous families and hear their remarkable stories of hope and courage, and we were overjoyed to see how excited they were to receive the mamaRoos. It was a day that left a lasting impact on our hearts.”
From One NICU Mama to the Next…
“Being a NICU parent is hard – almost impossibly so. And even though neither Erin nor myself currently have a baby in the unit, it doesn’t take much for either of us to remember exactly how it feels to have a tiny, sick baby. To be able to give kits and provide support to parents who have been where we once were is incredible. It is healing, therapeutic, cathartic, and it is everything that we could have possibly hoped to feel and so much more because it almost makes the hours that we logged praying, crying, and worrying over sick children in the NICU worth it. The look of relief and gratitude that washes over the faces of exhausted parents when they see our care packages or hear our stories may be our greatest reward. In fact, it almost makes our losses, even the most painful ones, seem worthwhile if only so that we can connect with someone who is struggling now and encourage them to keep going. And it is the best paycheck that we could ever ask for.”