To the Moms Who Cared For My Family When My Daughter Was Critically Ill

She was puzzled when her colleague called her to tell her that one of her patients had just delivered a new baby girl…But there was something wrong. A skin disorder. What did that mean exactly? Had she missed something during all of her patient’s seemingly typical prenatal appointments?

And then she received a texted photo of the new baby. With elevated concern, she dropped her phone and yelled anxiously to her nurse to cancel her appointments the rest of the day.

Well aware of what this severe unexpected condition could mean for the baby’s life, the ob/gyn physician rushed to the hospital to be by her patient’s side. My side.

My beloved doctor sat with me and patted my arm. She did all she could to help in the critical situation. And then, when Brenna was transferred to the NICU, she continued to call to check on me and our family. She made appointments for me during her hectic days, just to talk. And more than one morning, she stopped by the NICU before her long shift to see Brenna. She left her own children in the early hours to make sure mine was OK.

More than five years from those days after Brenna’s birth, I never imagined how my heart could be stretched, not only because of the love I have experienced every day for my own two beautiful children, but because of the love shown to me by other moms along this life-changing journey of motherhood.

When my own weaknesses and limitations were pushed too far, other moms stepped alongside me and our family, time and again.

Today, in honor of this year’s approaching Mother’s Day, I offer a Thank You of deep gratitude…a thank you to those of you who have mothered my children. A thank you to those who kept my daughter alive, who cared for my son when I couldn’t be there, who served my family in the most selfless ways.

You, the neonatologist who sat by my hospital bed and patted my leg and looked at me with hurting blue eyes, with your own tummy bulging under your hospital scrubs with new life, offering me careful words to explain my child had a skin disorder called ichthyosis and the prognosis was not clear but that she was in good hands….thank you.

You, my friends, acquaintances and strangers who shifted around your budgets for weeks and weeks so you could generously help with Brenna’s medical expenses… thank you.

You, fellow mothers who took time away from your own family to spend extra time preparing a meal for mine… thank you.

You, NICU nurses who kissed your own babies goodbye to spend 12 hours on your feet taking care of mine, loving her to better health and increased strength, but also never forgetting to ask if Evan and I were all right, if we needed anything, if we had any questions… thank you.

You, moms who added to your shopping list at the store to purchase Aquaphor and medical supplies or thoughtfully choose a gift cards to Starbucks or the grocery store or Subway and spend time addressing it to our home… thank you.

You, nursing moms – a small but exceedingly special group – who gave hours of your life and dedication of your body to pump milk for Brenna for nearly two years… thank you.

You, the pediatrician who immediately gave me your cell phone number knowing, mother-t0-mother, than I needed that connection – and then answered my calls on evenings and weekends while letting me know you were happy to help… thank you.

You, the therapists who offered to come to our home to make it easier on our family, who researched and asked about the best ways to help Brenna, who are so involved in her school success… thank you.

You, medical teams of mothers who always ask me what I think, trusting that as her mother, I know my daughter best… thank you.

You, our own mothers. Our aunts, our cousins. Who have taught us how to love big, love whole, love unending. Who forced us out of the house, who rocked our baby through long afternoons, who played with our toddler during intense skincare routines, baths and hospitalizations. Who have been steady support, every day… thank you.

Tears slide down my face as I recount the dozens of instances that mothers I know stood up when my daughter was critically ill, reached out, and held my family in support. And my gratitude wells up with each memory, because I know it was not easy. It was one more thing to do, one more thing to think about, in the midst of already very full lives. But willingly, you stretched, and you carried, and you sacrificed, and you gave.

We all may parent differently, but the love of a mother never looks all that different – selfless, devoted, unconditional, caring. What I’ve found is that mothers not only lovingly care for their own children, but they truly love each other and they care for each other’s children. None of us could parent our best without the love of all of the moms around us, especially to lift us up and carry us through when we need it most.

The Best Children’s Books About the Hospital or Doctor

Even though it’s been seven months now, Brenna is still constantly processing her feelings and anxiety after being hospitalized last summer, and it seems like it will be ongoing as she grows older and continues to see doctors and specialists. By far, her most frequent question when we talk about someone being in the hospital or discuss an upcoming visit to a physician is: “Will the nurses be there with masks on?” In her little mind, she equates nurses with masks to pain and discomfort – blood draws, IV insertion, blood pressure readings, shots.

And so the process is perpetual, with conversations about how the doctors and nurses and machines at the hospital help our bodies get better. For Brenna, the two most effective ways of processing these experiences are pretend play with our doctor toy kit – pretending to be the nurse and the doctor to her sick stuffed animals – and reading books.

When she was actually in the hospital, we read several books about being sick many, many times a day, and I think it helped her feel less alone to read about some of her favorite characters also being in the hospital. We’ve also read some great books to Connor about having a loved one who is sick.


If you are wanting to read more about these experiences to your own kids, here are some of our favorite books about the hospital or doctor for a child who is a patient:

  1. A Visit to the Sesame Street Hospital. Grover needs to have an operation, so he and a couple of his friends tour the hospital to learn more about his surgery and hospital stay. We read this at least 17 times a day when Brenna was hospitalized, and she still talks about it. Some parts are a bit outdated, but most of the information is still true, and it is very positive and educational.
  2. Tubes in My Ears: My Trip to the Hospital by Virginia Dooley. This is a shorter book, which is great for younger kids like Brenna. Some of the books about hospitalizations are much too long and detailed for toddlers and preschoolers. I appreciated in this book about a young boy who has an operation to have tubes in his ears that he talks about feeling sick and throwing up after his operation. I think it’s helpful for kids to realize that not everything is “easy” about being sick and sometimes it may take some time before you feel better.booktubesinmyears
  3. Katie Goes to the Hospital by Barbara Taylor Cork. This is Brenna’s favorite book about being in the hospital, besides reading about Grover’s visit. It is short and an easy read, but covers all of the basics about what happens at the hospital and how you may feel.
  4. Do I Have to Go to the Hospital? by Pat Thomas. I thought this book did a good job explaining that the hospital staff is there to make everyone better, even when things may be uncomfortable or frightening. It also discussed many comforting things for a child while hospitalized, such as having a parent with you and playing with toys from the hospital playroom.bookdoihavetogotothehospital
  5. Harry Goes to the Hospital by Howard J. Bennett. In this book, a little boy has to go to the emergency room and then is hospitalized with a severe case of the stomach flu. What I liked about this story is that it was an illness that the boy wasn’t prepared for, unlike a surgery, because many hospitalizations do happen as a result of an acute health problem that isn’t planned and previously discussed. I think it’s important for kids to know what an emergency room is like, too, because there is a good chance they may have to go to one at some point.
  6. When You’re Sick or in the Hospital by Tom McGrath. This book focuses on the emotional side of hospitalizations for kids, which is a unique and much-needed vantage point as compared to some of the other books. It discusses all kinds of emotions a child may feel and encourages the child to ask lots of questions and talk about how they’re feeling.

There are also some good books about the hospital or being sick with our favorite children’s characters, such as Little Critter, Franklin the Turtle, Clifford the Big Red Dog and Curious George.

And here are some of our favorite books for a child with a sibling who is hospitalized:

  1. Noah’s Garden: When Someone You Love Is in the Hospital by Mo Johnson. This is a wonderful book about a little boy who plays at the hospital playground/garden area while his sister is hospitalized. It is light-hearted and positive, and we read it many times to Connor when he was 2 or 3 years old after Brenna was born. It’s a fantastic read for young kids.booknoahsgarden
  2. When Molly Was in the Hospital by Debbie Duncan. This book is a little longer, so probably best suited for siblings maybe 5 and up, but it’s a comforting read and explores many emotions and reactions that a sibling may be experiencing.

What About Me?: When Brothers and Sisters Get Sick by Allan Peterkin. I got a little emotional reading this book, about a little girl whose younger brother gets sick and is hospitalized, leaving her confused and upset that no one is paying attention to her but only asking about and talking about her brother. I think it would be really helpful to read this book with kids 4 and up to open conversations about how they’re feeling when they have a sick sibling.bookwhataboutmeReading these books has really helped Brenna (and Connor) to work through some emotions they have experienced with so many trips to the hospital and doctors’ offices. Are there any that you would add to the list from your own experiences?

Interested in more children’s reading? Subscribe to my email list to download a list of my favorite children’s books about differences and disabilities!

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