Madeline was born in November, so she spent her first Thanksgiving and Christmas in the neonatal intensive care unit. The NICU is always a scary and sad place to be, but the family holidays really emphasize the loneliness that comes with an extended hospital stay.
A few months ago many of you voted and wrote amazing things about my family and this blog. Because of that, we were chosen as the winner of the Best Overall Blog on TheBump.com. With it came this prize:
We turned around and gave the money to Friends of Maddie. That money funded forty Family Support Packs – enough for an entire NICU.
As you all know, Mike and I have made a few trips to the labor and delivery unit of the hospital. It happens that Madeline’s NICU is right next to L&D, so I have been reminded often of the babies living there, and of the sixty-eight days the NICU was our Madeline’s home. Mike and I thought the week before Christmas would be a good time to make a special trip to the NICU. We hoped to brighten the days of the families and also thank the nurses and doctors for their continued hard work.
On Wednesday, I loaded up my mom and cousin Leah, and off we went to the NICU with a load of Support Packs and enough cookies from the local bakery to feed a small army.
It’s very hard for Mike to go to the NICU at UCLA because it reminds him too much of those first few horrible days when Maddie’s life was touch and go. I, on the other hand, like to go there because I get to see the people that are responsible for giving me seventeen months with my daughter. They are the people who cared for her tirelessly, who never gave up on her even when the situation was so dire. Any opportunity I can get to thank them I jump at. Last Wednesday was no exception. I was happy to see many of the nurses that cared for Madeline, including one of her primary day nurses that I hadn’t seen in a very long time.
The best part, though, was handing over the support packs to the NICU Director. It’s always nice to send out support packs, but there is something especially meaningful about bringing them in person. Being there in the NICU and seeing some of the families sitting at their child’s bedside reminded me that there truly is a need for Friends of Maddie.
Thanks to all of you we are working to meet that need.
If you would like Friends of Maddie to come to your NICU in the New Year, please email friendsofmaddie at gmail dot com.
What a lovely thing to do, and doing it in person I’m sure means more. Happy New Year, Spohrs. Much love.
.-= Maura´s last blog ..Just Under the Wire =-.
Mama Mary says:
This is so wonderful! My first born had to spend a week in the NICU and it was terrifying. I feel such a connection to the doctors and nurses who work in NICUs, just knowing how special their jobs are in the lives of little babies and new parents. This warms my heart. Thank you for paying forward the money you won.
.-= Mama Mary´s last blog ..#best09 social web moment – a terrifying tweet hits close to home =-.
Very heart warming and a great holiday gift! Happy New Year. I wish you the best always.
.-= Didi´s last blog ..And the Winner Is….. =-.
catherine lucas says:
A great thing to do. I voted for you too, so I am glad that you won, and that the result was something that makes the world a tiny bit better. If we all keep sending out tiny bits, we might end up in a good world someday. I thought about you and your family through the Christmas days. Wondering how you were doing on those special days loaden with memories…
.-= catherine lucas´s last blog ..Uninvited guests =-.
What a sweet, wonderful thing to do. Many hugs.
Kate @ UpsideBackwards says:
You rock. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that you did this, having come to know you from your writings here, but all the same it is an amazing gift of love.
.-= Kate @ UpsideBackwards´s last blog ..Nearly normal =-.
You and Mike are truly amazing people. I wish you much-deserved peace and happiness in the coming year. Big hugs to you both!
.-= Noelle´s last blog ..Merry Christmas. Really! =-.
O Heather I was so delighted to hear that you won this money and today I am so delighted to hear of how you have the put the money to such very good use. You really are such an extraordinary lady with such a big heart and so much love to give to others even when you are living through such difficult moments yourself.
I continue to be so in awe of you and your strengh and courage. You are amazing, Heather!! You really are one of a kind and I am so honoured to read your blog and to hear about all the amazing work you continue to do. Your precious Maddie is so proud of her Mama and all your readers and fans are so proud of you too. What a wonderful way to honour your Maddie just before Christmas.
You, Mike, Maddie, Binky, Rigby and your families have all been in my thoughts over this Christmas period. Please know that this stranger friend far, far away from you all in Luxembourg, continues to think about you all every day and that your darling girl has such a special place in my heart.
Sending you lots of love from afar, amazing lady.
Your friend Erica in Luxembourg
Heather what a wonderful, amazing thing to do. I imagine all the terrified parents opening their packs, grateful, possibly learning about Madeline. Look at all the lives she is touching.
Beautiful. Thank you for letting us watch you dig deep into your heart, making good from the heartache.
.-= edenland´s last blog ..Jingle Bells, Batman Smells =-.
Amy Collen says:
I stand in awe, my friend. You and Mike did a wonderful thing. Indeed you were so blessed to have your beautiful Maddie but Maddie (and Binky and Rigby) are ever so blessed to have you both as parents. Strong work :).
Wow Heather this is so wonderful. Maddie’s legacy of love ( that you and Mike beautifully nurture) is so touching. I love what you wrote about the NICU – “I get to see the people that are responsible for giving me seventeen months with my daughter.” Reaching out to other families as you do is such a loving way to honor Madeline’s life.
.-= Kelly´s last blog ..Thank You =-.
J in eire says:
It’s lovely to see you with the support of close family. It must be so very difficult for them too, to love you so much and watch you suffer the loss of Maddie. What you are doing is wonderful, and the spirit in which you are doing it is so positive, I loved that you wrote about meeting the people who are responsible for giving you seventeen months with Maddie. You are truly inspiring.
What a wonderful, wonderful, thing to do, Heather!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Go, Maddie, go! Helping people, and continuing to brighten lives, every single day. Heather, it’s so great that you do this – especially because you know so personally how much it means to the parents. You rock!
xo from CT,
.-= amanda´s last blog ..time for some pics. =-.
Congrats on the win. Giving the money away was a very generous thing to do.
Thinking of you, mike, binky and of course rigby
This post gave me full-body goosebumps. You are amazing!! Go Friends of Maddie!!
.-= ClassyFabSarah´s last blog ..Merry Christmas =-.
That is the great! Many people would have bought something selfishly, but not you guys! You really are a wonderful person, in fact the Sphors really are a wonderful family!
.-= charlane´s last blog ..YAY CHRISTMAS! =-.
That was so nice of you guys! My twins were also in the NICU, last year, over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. I remember how hard it was to leave them on those days especially. I still cannot find the strength to return to our NICU. It’s just too painful for me right now.
Lynn from For Love or Funny says:
Remembering our two trips to the NICU, it sure would have been so nice to receive such loving support from someone who completely understood our plight. Great job, Heather!
.-= Lynn from For Love or Funny´s last blog ..Naked cake should be outlawed =-.
So sweet of you and I agree perfect timing, our little one was born at 28 weeks on the 29th of Dec and It would have been so nice during the holidays to have a little extra support.
What a wonderful holiday gift for those families with little ones in the NICU over the holidays. You guys are doing amazing work.
Love and hugs.
.-= Lisa´s last blog ..Pregnant Over the Holidays =-.
Jen L. says:
.-= Jen L.´s last blog ..What did YOU get for Christmas? =-.
Shannon Kieta says:
You are such an inspiration. A good heart! God Bless you Heather, and your mom and cousin for taking the time to do all that. I am sure those families are so thankful for all you do for them.
This is an amazing, AMAZING thing you did/are doing!! As a parent who spent 3 months in NICU,I know exactly how much it means to those families. You are an inspiration. Wishing you a wonderful holiday season full of love that’s as beautiful and heartfelt as the love you so wnderfully give.
.-= PsychMamma´s last blog ..Easy Christmas Gift Idea =-.
Karen Chatters says:
That’s so wonderful that Friends of Maddie and Maddie’s memory can continue to make a difference for other families that are going through what you did. That’s a wonderful Christmas gift from Maddie, you and Mike.
.-= Karen Chatters´s last blog ..Merry Christmas =-.
that is wonderful. god bless you.
.-= Michele´s last blog ..Big Kid Bathtub & Solid Food =-.
What a wonderful gift you gave those families! I know it would have meant the world to me when my baby was in the NICU, and I’m so grateful there’s an organization like Friends of Maddie to provide this comfort and support to other NICU families!
May God continue to bless and keep you.
.-= thebonmama´s last blog ..Look who’s talking =-.
What a beautiful gift. Merry Christmas to you all.
What a beaufiful, selfless act – Our first born only spent four days in the NICU – I cannot imagine how the parents who have to ‘leave’ their babies there long term must feel – but I know that with your very generous gift, you have helped to make their days a little brighter –
.-= darcie´s last blog ..I give up… =-.
That is wonderful to help out other families like that!!!!!
That is such a wonderful idea and one that I would like to continue here in Oklahoma. My Maggie spent 98 days in the NICU after she was born at 27 weeks (1 pound, 6 ounces). I came to know a LOT of the nurses and staff there and as her birthday is fast approaching (Jan 1) I would like to do something special for the staff. Could you tell me what was in your support packs and how you went about compiling the gifts? Thanks so much and tons of love to you and Mike!
That’s so wonderful, Heather. I voted for you fo’ sho’. May 2010 be all that you hope it will be.
That was a beautiful and kind gesture. Maddie would be so proud of her family, and you bring such honor to your little angel.
I think it’s wonderful work that you & Mike are doing. I spent what seemed like an eternity in NICU one December a few years ago supporting friends with a very sick newborn. I remember looking at the two story Christmas tree in the lobby and KNOWING that just witnessing such an intense time would be life-changing. It was.
Yay for you and Friends of Maddie! After spending 66 days with our daughter in the NICU, I know how much those packs will be appreciated!
.-= Lindsay´s last blog ..Our Christmas =-.
What an absolutely wonderful thing for you to do!
.-= kbreints´s last blog ..Back to the norm PLEASE =-.
What an awesome gift to those parents! My niece, my sister’s first, was a 9lb, 6oz, but was in the NICU due to meconium aspiration, for over a week. It was such a long week, I couldn’t imagine what premie NICU parents have to go through with several weeks on end, my poor sister was a mess, she could have done with this kindness those 8+ years ago.
Thank you, for doing what you do.
.-= Kelly´s last blog ..But He Forgot My E-Pod… =-.
I have no experience that comes close to yours. But I have been moved to tears by yours. Today is one of those days I am moved. Looking forward to 2010 with the Spohrs.
I, on the other hand, like to go there because I get to see the people that are responsible for giving me seventeen months with my daughter.
Honestly, of all the amazing things you’ve written, this one just hit me hard. Dang.
Good for you, and good for Friends of Maddie.
.-= J´s last blog ..It’s still the holidays, darn it =-.
I didn’t mean to make my comment sound like a lame rhyme! You know what I meant though…
What an amazing thing that Friends of Maddie is doing! God Bless!
Amy Stear says:
You and Mike are truly wonderful people, our world needs more like you. Many of us end the year with charitable contributions and I really hope this post reminds people to do just that and include Friends of Maddie as one of their chosen charities. I will be making a year-end contribution to Friends of Maddie and I hope many of your other readers will as well. It’s so important to support meaningful efforts and it’s so important to honor Maddie.
This is awesome.
.-= Maria´s last blog ..wordless: the best way to end a vacation =-.
DesignHER Momma says:
Well done! This makes me so happy…
.-= DesignHER Momma´s last blog ..Too Sweet for Words =-.
Lindsay from Florida says:
Turning grief into compassion for others is just a stunning thing to see, wherever it happens. Thank you for this post.
You did good Heather!
.-= Kristin´s last blog ..Our Fantabulous Christmas – Perfect Moment Monday =-.
Mary Ann says:
What a wonderful thing to do. I remember speding Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in the CICU with my father on life support. That was five years ago and I still think about those nurses who had to spend time away from their families and the other families spending Christmas there too. I remember going down to the cafeteria with my mother and sister and buying a cup of bean soup from a crock pot – the only food available that day for Christmas dinner after not eating for 2 days because I just didn’t want to leave his room. I remember not wanting to leave the hospital because I knew it might mean it was the last time I would see my father. I remember the saddness and the feeling of being so alone. I cannot imagine having to go through that with a child – I’m sure you made a lot of people feel loved and less alone with your generosity. You are amazing!
What a wonderful gift. Hope you and your family made it through the holidays okay.
.-= Andria´s last blog ..One Wanting Another =-.
Adventures In Babywearing says:
This is so wonderful. And thank you for being honest about Mike- my hubby has a hard time going back with things like that now, too, and it’s ok, you know? And understandable. Your heart is amazing.
.-= Adventures In Babywearing´s last blog ..And that’s what little girls are made of. =-.
Michele Wallace says:
Heather – What an awesome thing to do! I have most respect for you, as I have always wanted to go back into Mattel’s Children Hospital, and even 5 years later don’t have the courage to do so. I bet that is a very hard thing to swallow walking in there!
I look forward to seeing pics of your baby and glad that your pregnancy is going well.
Lot of hugs to you!
You guys inspire me. So awesome. xoxoxoxoxo
Aunt Becky says:
So proud to know you. So proud.
.-= Aunt Becky´s last blog ..Emotional Rescue, or Why I Am Humping My Vicodin Bottle =-.
What a beautiful thing to do for the the families! You are an incredible inspiration.
.-= Corinne´s last blog ..Discovery =-.
You guys are just awesome. AWESOME! May 2010 bring you everything you deserve, love, joy, happiness. Lots of love to you all as always.
what a wonderful thing to do, especially right before the holidays! I’m glad you were able to see many of the people who helped you and Maddie during her first few months.
We wish you, Mike and your families happy holidays and wonderful things for 2010. We hope to see you next year
Marti from Michigan says:
God and Maddie are smiling down on your entire family from Heaven above.
You’re all wonderful, caring, loving people!
Marti from Michigan says:
I forgot to add, the little girl born at 28 1/2 weeks to missionary friends in Thailand, is coming home this week – she will be admitted to South Bend, Indiana’s Memorial Hospital NICU. There is a Neonatologist there who has been consulting with the team in Thailand ever since little Olive Hope was born. I’m so happy for them to return to American soil and a place that knows what they’re doing with a premature infant.
If I upset you with this information Heather, I apologize.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
That is so so special that you gave those care packs to the NICU. Having a NICU Grad, I know how important it is to help those parents feel loved and cared for. The NICU is a lonely, quiet place. It can be scary. God bless you and Mike for giving back in this way and helping those families feel a little more at ease.
.-= Tara.´s last blog ..i ? faces: Hilarious Outtakes =-.
You could not celebrate the holidays, and Madeline, in a better way.
Heather and Mike, you two and everyone over at Friends of Maddie are so amazing. I can’t imagine the fear and hardship of having a child in the NICU must bring, but I can imagine the comfort families can draw from a support pack.
Sorry I missed you! Next time come at night :). I saw the bags at some babies bedsides when I worked christmas night. They are awesome. Thank you so much for doing that. I know it will mean a lot to many families! My love to all your family!
Heather this is wonderful! I love how you honor your sweet girl. love you!
.-= Kim´s last blog ..Moving On… =-.
What an amazing way to honor your precious daughter and the wonderful 17 months that you were blessed with her love. I am so in awe of you all!!!!
And congrats on your blog win!
Congrats on winning Best Overall Blog! I love the idea of Friends of Maddie. Our twins were in the NICU for 93 and 99 days and this would have come in handy for us if there was such a program in our area. It is just wonderful!!!
Michelle Pixie says:
I am inspired! Thank you.
.-= Michelle Pixie´s last blog ..From Our Home To Yours =-.
Just a wonderful idea, I know you touched many. Em just won $500 for Emily’s Smile Boxes. It feels great getting some funds to help others, doesn’t it?
Heather, this is absolutely awesome!!!
.-= Andrea´s last blog ..When Sweet Turns Sassy =-.
So wonderful!!! Could you maybe post a list of the things you put in the packs. Our Bible study would love to do something like this.
I know that some group (I’m frustrated that I can’t remember the name of the group) came to my son’s room when he was in the hospital the first time and gave me a small package. They gave him a small rattle and the bag for me had a notepad, pen, lotion…..something else that escapes my mind right now. It was really nice to have something to get my mind off his hospitalization.
I’m sure for the families in the NICU, those bags mean a lot. You’re doing such great things.
.-= Rebecca´s last blog ..Crazies on Craigslist =-.
Once again, you brought a tear to my eye and goose bumps to my skin. You are amazing!!!
So touching. So wonderful. So inspiring.
.-= Mishi´s last blog ..36 Months =-.
Heather, whether you realize this or not — you are truly one of the strongest and most inspiring women I know !!
Your courage and strength amaze me!! May God bless you and Mike with a smooth delivery and healthy baby girl!
What a wonderful legacy for Maddie
Best Overall Blog…by far, of any that I’ve read. So glad you were able to spread a little sunshine in the NICU.
I love that Maddie’s legacy is able to live on not just through words, photos and videos but also through helping others.
Jen Rew says:
Dear God woman.. You are amazing!!!!! What a wonderful gift to give. I am sure the NICU will treasure what a wonderful family you guys are. Thank you for bringing such joy to people. May God Bless you all this coming year and every year after. Xo
.-= Jen Rew´s last blog ..What the hell is wrong with people. =-.
I’m very proud of you! FoM is doing such a fantastic job, I hope it brings you some kind of comfort. Lots of love.
Must Be Motherhood says:
You are such beautiful people.
So wonderful! I’ve really enjoyed making NICU bags like the FoM ones and taking them to our local NICU, and the ones a few hours away. Thank you, Heather, Mike and Maddie for the inspiration!
.-= Bridget´s last blog ..Merry Christmas to all! =-.
I mean it just has to warm your hear in an odd way to be in the unit. I am so glad you go there and give back. Just as we go into the Hospice House in Sarasota, Fl where my husband spent his last 9 weeks of his life. My daughter associates the building with the smell, but it is what she remembers as a small child…We give back to Hospice and it makes me feel so good I can’t tell you. I know how much it means to other families to have you reach out. Really that would be where my focus would be during the holidays when missing sweet M.
.-= Deidre´s last blog ..End The Funeral With A Wedding =-.
What a wonderful way to honor your sweet Maddie.
Warm wishes for 2010!
.-= cara´s last blog ..From Our Family To Yours =-.
You are an inspiration! What a wonderful way to give to others this holiday season, even as you continue to grieve for your beautiful baby girl. You, Mike and Maddie have been in my thoughts these past few days. I am hoping that the New Year brings you joy as you await the arrival of your second baby girl. If anyone deserves it, it is you!
Thanks for giving to so many families who are struggling today and many days. And as always, thanks for sharing with us!
You and Mike are such awesome people. As well as your family for helping out those in need at the NICU. We need more people like you. And I'm glad you won the contest. ;o)
it’s my dream to make nicu bags for the families at the nicus here. so far, we’ve only been able to do some small baby showers and preemie caps, but we’ll get there! Thank you so much for doing it where you are. you’re so wonderful. all my blessings to you.
What a beautiful gift you have given.
My granddaughter Ella was born prematurely 4 years ago. She was delivered via emergency c-section at 34 weeks gestation due to infection in her mommy’s womb. She was given very little chance of survival. The specialist that treated her said that in 20 years of practice, she was the first case of “morganella” that he had treated. Thankfully she thrived and survived, and is now a happy healthy 4 year old princess. Bless the hearts of all those working in the NICU. They truly are angels among us.
Melanie @ Mel, A Dramatic Mommy says:
I’m so happy you won! Congratulations. Little Maddie has amazing parents.
.-= Melanie @ Mel, A Dramatic Mommy´s last blog ..My Favorite Christmas Ornaments: A Tradition =-.
Like to read the story here. Thank you lots for sharing the good picture.
.-= chandan´s last blog ..List of Edu blogs =-.
Wonderful. You brightened so many parents’ lives that day! You continue to inspire! Much love to you!
Marti from Michigan says:
As soon as I am able to, I too will become a Friend of Maddie. It will probably be sometime soon in the new year.
You are amazing. Many families are benefiting because of Friends of Maddie.
You are awesome. And you look great.
.-= TMD´s last blog ..A Letter to My Oldest Son =-.
I know that feeling. And how wonderful for you to be able to continue to use your reach as a means of helping others.
.-= Kellee´s last blog ..Checks Wrap =-.
I’m so glad you got to deliver them in person. Wonderful.