Our stories, our why.
*scroll down to see why // where // how to donate
Becoming a mom is a huge transition. For moms that have had a complex pregnancy(ies) followed by a critically ill baby, Mother’s Day can sometimes bring more feelings of sadness then joy.
For me (Jessica), my first Mother’s Day was the day after Theo’s last closure surgery - it was one of the darkest and saddest days during my time at The Hospital for Sick Children. Theo was completely sedated - he seemed lifeless. So many questions ran through my mind post surgery - Will his intestines work? Will he develop another infection? How long will he need to be intubated? Will he be able to eat? Will he wake up and be in pain? Will he live a “normal” life? When will all the tubes be removed? And when, when, when...can I hold him?
My husband, parents and closest friends did things to try to make the day special but when your baby is completely lifeless and there is literally nothing you can do to help them, you are left feeling hopeless and for me, anything but a Mother.
During this time, I lived at Ronald McDonald House in Toronto. It was a weekend and they had a nice breakfast for the moms. Despite their efforts, all I wanted was to be HOME with my baby.
For me (Kayla), my first Mother’s Day went from something that I had always looked forward to, to something I was somewhat dreading. Waking in a completely different building, a block away from my baby and rushing over to the hospital to spend some time with him. The last thing I was expecting was a gift to celebrate this moment, I didn’t even want to think about it.
When I opened the door at RMHC that morning, I was greeted with a box, full of donations from wonderful people, just for me, for my very first Mother’s Day. Every Mama had a box. Every Mama was thought of at that moment. The fact that someone was thinking of US when we couldn’t even think for ourselves, was a special moment and feeling that I will never forget. I knew in that moment that when I was in the position to give back, to let others have this feeling I was so blessed with, I would do whatever I could to pass it on and make it happen for many more.
As soon as the pandemic started, all we could talk about and all we can still talk about is the mamas/caregivers out there, RIGHT NOW, living in the hospital with their child(ren). We can’t imagine the hardship of your experience - not being allowed to have spouses or family/friends visit to offer their love and support is unimaginable.
For this reason, THIS Mother’s Day we want all mamas to know that we are thinking of them, especially those living at the Ronald McDonald House in Toronto.
What Beyond the Beads is doing:
We have collaborated with loveloladaisy and some of the most amazing small businesses, local makers, and community members to put together a box for each mother living at the Ronald McDonald House in Toronto!
Each box ties in with our ultimate goal of Mamas supporting other Mamas. Contents of the box include indulgences like bath bombs, speciality tea, custom mugs, custom keychains, treats, and products that we would have loved to have when we were staying at RMHC.
In addition to the Beyond the Boxes, we are hosting and sponsoring the Mother’s Day Dinner at the Ronald McDonald House on May 9! Chef’s are coming in to prepare a special meal for families, to celebrate and recognize the Mamas who are doing it all, and holding it all together - especially in these trying times.
The last thing we want Mothers of critically ill and/ or hospitalized children to worry about, is having to come back ‘Home’ and have nothing to eat, especially after a mentally exhausting day. We say this because we lived it - Mother’s Day for a Mama living at the hospital sucks, it’s one of the worst times to be there. This is one more thing that we can do to make Mother’s Day extra special for these Super Mamas.
How you can help:
We are currently accepting monetary donations through firstname.lastname@example.org to continue to fill the Beyond the Boxes with goodies for Mamas.
We also have partnered directly with the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Toronto, for an official fundraiser/ donor page - that is also tax deductible, and can be linked here:
Either way you choose to donate, the money will be going to support families directly living at RMHC Toronto, this Mother’s Day on May 9, 2021. Both accounts will be linked together, and donations will show on the RMHC Beyond the Boxes fundraising page.
Beyond the Beads x loveloladaisy are partnering with Brand With Purpose to give families the opportunity to purchase a full box to donate to a Mama at RMHC Toronto!
These boxes are purchased and then physically donated on behalf of the Donor to a Mother living inside the House. The Buyer/ Donor can choose to have a card sent to their recipient of choice, representing the Beyond the Box given in honour of their own Mother/ Sister/ Grandma/ Aunt/ Caregiver for Mother’s Day.
Covid is affecting everyone right now, not just mentally or emotionally. If you would like to participate without donating, you can share our posts and our links to your social media, and help to spread the word. Anyone, anywhere can donate. Families who have experienced the NICU from anywhere in the world, or who have stayed at any of the Ronald McDonald House Charities Houses are able to donate and come together to show their love and support to the families going through it right now.
First, I think it’s important to mention that when you are living through unimaginable times, despite people’s intentions, no one really knows how to react or support you. As I mentioned before, I am a people pleaser by nature and I’m pretty crapping at advocating for what I need. In reflecting on my experience and what I wish I would have asked for, here are my tips and ideas for family or friends wanting to support their loved one in the hospital:
1. Books: for me books were the best gift and I found myself buying a lot during our stay. A close friend of mine purchased the book “Wherever You Go My Love Will Find You” by Nancy Tillman. To this day, this book still makes me tear up. This book was incredibly powerful because it reminded me that even though I was not physically able to be with my baby for most of the day, I was enough in just being his mother. I loved reading books to the boys especially before leaving the hospital for the night. Even though there were times when my boys were completely sedated, reading a book helped me feel like I had a role other than pumping and this helped me connect to my boys
2. Untraditional gifts that made a world of a difference such as gift cards and MONEY!
We lived at Ronald McDonald House with both boys and despite the accommodation being very reasonable, you are still paying for your living expenses at home and usually one partner is working less to be at the hospital with your baby. My husband and I calculated that we probably spent more than $4000 on parking alone between the hospitals. We really appreciated gift cards because they took some of the stress out of the day. Tim’s or Starbucks gift cards are great options because they are both located in the hospital. Uber eats gift cards are also a great option. A lot of time is spent driving between home and the hospitals so gas gift cards can also be really helpful. Also I know money can be an untraditional and sometimes awkward gift to give but at the end of the day a monetary gift was extremely helpful as again it just took some of the burden off the daily expenses.
3. FOOD: The best thing about being in downtown Toronto is all the different food options. But for someone like me that has Crohn’s disease, I need to eat a specific diet. Eating out would be quite distressing for me as my body does not always agree with the food choices available. Due to my Crohn’s disease, I cannot eat a lot of raw food so my parents would often make a huge tray of grilled vegetables for me and drop them off at the Ronald McDonald House so I could add them to my meals. Some family members would cut up fresh fruit and veggie slices to take with us during the day. My husband's grandparents were very sweet and would just show up with homemade meals that were warm. They would even bring plates and forks from their house so we could feel like we were eating a normal meal. Friends/family would sometimes quickly stop by and just say I’m bringing you dinner or homemade cookies. When people just showed up with cookies, muffins or a tea just to say hi, these gestures made a world of difference.
4. Showing Up! As I mentioned above, I always had an excuse when someone asked to come and visit. However, parents NEED breaks out of the hospital and need to be supported by the people that love them the most. We were lucky that we only lived an hour away from the hospital and had many friends that live in the city.
5. Clothes: I highly recommend not bringing clothes. My boys couldn’t be dressed until they were 2 to 3 months old and getting clothes was just another reminder of the normalcy that I was missing because my baby was in the hospital and very unwell. The only exception are clothing items such as hats or socks because these items were useful and helped me to connect.
6. Stuffed Animals: Despite the best intentions of a personalized stuffy the space you have in the NICU is unimaginably limited and precious. While stuffy’s are cute and can be comforting, the space available was limited to essential items.
Lastly, I realize that many of the suggestions provided may not be possible due to Covid -19. These are recommendations solely based on my experience with both boys. Kayla & I continue to brainstorm & network with parents currently living in the hospital. If you read this & have any tips or suggestions that could help during the pandemic, we would LOVE to hear them <3.
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