Natasha & Ava

Natasha & Ava

I was 23.5 weeks into my first pregnancy when I visited my doctor for a routine check-up. I was feeling a little off and during the exam they told me I’d have to be admitted right away. There was no fluid in with the baby and I could go into labor at any minute. My home is in the Bronx but they sent me here because my baby would have a better chance of survival.

The next day, I went into labor. Ava was 1 pound and 5 ounces at birth. It was really touch and go. She had heart complications and respiratory issues. The doctors told me to expect the worst. They didn’t know if she’d survive, but they would do their best. Everything had happened so quickly – from the time I went to my doctor for that check up to the time she was born, it was less than 48 hours. I was in labor for only about a half hour. I gave birth at 6 pm and I didn’t get to see her until midnight. It was so scary – the doctors were just taking it hour by hour with her and I had to get into the same mindset.

Two days later, I was discharged and I instantly started worrying about where I was going to go. My daughter couldn’t leave with me and I was 2 hours away from home. I knew I had to stay here but I didn’t know if I had to get a hotel, an AirBnB, a rental property… I just knew I had to be near her. Then, the social worker came to me and told me about the Ronald McDonald House. She said I could stay there. My first question was - how much will that cost? She said it didn’t have to cost me anything, that they would just help me. I was in awe. Next, I asked where it was and she said it was right across the street. I said, you’ve got to be kidding me!

I didn’t know what to expect when I entered the House. It was scary because I’m away from my home. I’m by myself. But when I arrived, it was everything I needed.

You have your own space, a huge kitchen to use and meals are provided as well! Being directly across the street from the hospital was the number one thing to me. Literally any time that I want to see my daughter, I can just get up and go across the street to the hospital.

It’s really like home. They’re not just giving you a place to stay, it’s the people here too. It becomes a home away from home. I love bingo nights and being around the other families who are going through similar things. It helps give a sense of normalcy without any guilt. You are around other families who are going through difficult times, but you get to laugh and to focus on something else for a little while. I feel happy and I don’t feel guilty about being away from my daughter for a little bit. It’s a space where you can feel like you have family and connect with other people and not feel like you’re going through this alone because that is mentally taxing. It’s hard not to break down, but everyone really helped keep me together.

That’s probably the most important thing, being around the other families, because you don’t feel like you’re the only one going through something. It’s already stressful but those problems become much bigger when you feel alone. We can talk about how our kids are doing and if they’re close to going home. Some families left before us, but I still stay in touch with them. We send pictures of our babies and I can see their child doing well and think that we’ll get to that point too. You build lifelong connections and friendships because no one else is going through it with you, no one else can understand. So the other families really helped me.

This place is a godsend. It’s been amazing to me. It’s taken away all the stress of not knowing where I would sleep or not being close to my baby. I can’t even describe the feeling. It’s amazing to go through the tough time I was going through and to feel that there’s a place and people around who care. The financial burden it removed was incredible. I’m so grateful that I have a place where I can rest that’s so close to my daughter. I can watch her grow and get the best care that she needs, and I can take care of myself.

I don’t know how I would’ve gotten through everything that I dealt with had I not stayed at the Ronald McDonald House. I can’t even imagine making the commute every day, feeling like I couldn’t be with my baby, or the debt I would have been in. I’m not working during this time, so I worried about the basic things like toiletries and meals. Little things that are such a big deal. It’s really been amazing. I can’t describe it. I am forever grateful to the Ronald McDonald House for what they do for families. It really is amazing, and it gives you a sense of hope just knowing that there are so many other people who care.

I will be advocating for the Ronald McDonald House forever. I always say I’m forever grateful to the Ronald McDonald House. I tell everyone you have to donate to RMH! I tell them to set up a weekly or monthly donation because what they do for families is amazing. It may not be you, but it can be your sister, your niece, uncle, your best friend… a lot of people aren’t sure what organization to support. Now I can really speak first hand to this and say their donations helped me! Ronald McDonald House has been a huge blessing because of the burden that it lifted financially, emotionally, and physically. I can’t express just how grateful I am.

Ava and Natasha going home!

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