Tiny Miracles: Ridgefielder helps families with premature babies
When Robin Black had triplets three and half months before they were due, she needed to find support.
Ben, Nate and Kate were born in 2007, and are now thriving as fourth graders at Farmingville Elementary School. But back when they were spending three months in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), it was hard for Black to see ahead.
“I had a rough pregnancy, but I never thought about premature birth,” she said.
“It’s not something you think could happen to you.”
She said that although medically she felt safe, there were few emotional resources to help her cope with the realities of having preemies in intensive care.
“The NICU is a roller coaster — every hour you have these incredible ups and downs,” she said.
“Things are going really well, and all of a sudden you don’t know if they’re going to survive the next hour, never mind the next day.”
Safe and scary
Black told The Press she felt the NICU was a contradiction — a place where it was difficult to reach out to other parents, even though they’re right there.
“The NICU is a wonderful place, and it’s the scariest place,” she said.
“It’s the safest place on earth, but things can turn on the dime.”
Looking for understanding and advice, she went to the Internet and found the Tiny Miracles Foundation.
She said that reading about others who had gone through similar experiences made hers easier to bear.
“I started reading stories of babies who were as small as my guys,” said Black, who now serves on the foundation’s board of directors and works as its secretary.
“It filled me with hope that there were other babies that had come out of that situation, and had survived that experience.”
When Black stumbled upon Tiny Miracles, she found a community of parents who had been through similar situations.
Even though the non-profit wasn’t at Yale, where she delivered her babies, just reading about the stories made her feel better.
When her children turned 1, Black called Tiny Miracles to thank them for the difference they had made, and to see what she could do to get involved to help parents have a better experience than she had.
“We don’t take the place of professional help,” she said.
“But we’re a lifeline, we’re a hand to hold, a person to talk to that just gets it.”
The organization is made up of volunteers who offer guidance, advice, or just a shoulder to lean on for families that have premature babies in the NICU, and want to know what comes after.
“To go from a support structure to home, where you become all those physicians and specialists that were looking after your baby,” said Black, “that was possibly even scarier than being in the NICU.”
“You think, ‘Now I’m solely responsible for keeping these babies alive,’” she said.
Most of the hospitals affiliated with Tiny Miracles have a resource room.
“It’s a peaceful place outside the buzzing of the NICU,” Black said.
They also provide books and toys for siblings, snack bags, take-home care packages, and blankets.
The Ridgefield resident said the most important part of what they do is the emotional support.
“I think our hallmark of what we do is the peer-to-peer mentoring in the NICU units,” Black said.
The nonprofit offers counseling and emotional support services to families with premature babies in five local hospitals: Bridgeport, Danbury, Stamford, Norwalk, and St. Vincent’s in Bridgeport.
The volunteers visit the hospitals on a weekly basis and go from room to room to let families know of the resources available to them.
“We’ll also give them a hug, listen to their story and share ours,” said Black.
Black started out as a phone mentor.
Every time someone had premature triplets, Tiny Miracles would connect her to the family and she would speak to them over the phone.
“There was one woman — the first preemie mom they connected me with — she had two boys and a girl just like I did,” she said.
“And I shared my story and I listened.”
Then the woman’s daughter passed away.
“I jumped in my car and I raced up to Bridgeport, and I sat with her,” said Black.
“Just being there with someone just to hold their hand and say, ‘I understand and I’m here’ was so important. I had no choice but to get involved.”
From that moment, Black started mentoring in Danbury Hospital — and has been very active as a volunteer.
Anyone can donate their time or funds to Tiny Miracles.
There are several ways to help and get involved.