Baby, Let’s Celebrate

By Alison Stoos, Photo by Kristi Dunlap

On Nov. 14, Hand to Hold hosts its inaugural Baby Shower luncheon honoring the families who have experienced life in the NICU.

For most people, having a baby instills a variety of emotions: excitement, hope and a healthy dose of anxiety. Nursery wall colors are debated, names are shuffled around and the holy grail of family planning is registered for: the baby shower. A time-honored tradition, it announces the addition of a new family member, a homecoming celebration for a healthy new person into the world.

Unfortunately, for too many families, the arrival is too soon. In the greater Austin area alone, there are 52 premature babies born each week, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in eight babies in the United States will be born preterm. Fortunately, the families who face this hurdle don’t have to do so alone.

Founded in 2010, the local nonprofit organization Hand to Hold provides families with peer mentors, along with an extensive library of resources to help new parents cope with having a child in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Their core program is a matching service that pairs new parents with peer mentors, those who also have experience with having a child preterm. Peer mentors offer support and education in an example of strength and comfort in numbers.

On Nov. 14, Hand to Hold hosts its first Baby Shower – Expecting a Bright Future for NICU Families event. The event is a way to honor families who have experienced life in the NICU, and also aims to build community among those who are currently experiencing it. Guests can expect all the fun of a traditional baby shower but with a twist, including party games with opportunities to win a variety of prizes, such as spa treatments and fine-dining gift certificates.

The luncheon starts at 11 a.m. and lasts until 1:30 p.m., all set against the idyllic scenery of Austin Country Club on Lake Austin. The event’s featured guest, runner and acclaimed Austin writer Kristin Armstrong, hopes guests attending will not only learn more about Hand to Hold, but also take away a stronger sense of community.

“I hope that there’s a greater awareness and appreciation for the organization,” she says, “but I also hope that more than anything, there is just a renewed sense of hopefulness and connection.”

A mother of twin daughters, Armstrong witnessed friends having experiences in the NICU.

“There were so many people who told me that being pregnant with twins, my chances of having to spend quality time there were really high,” she says.

Thankfully, her twins came full term and will soon celebrate their 13th birthdays, but she still relishes the opportunity to help foster a connection with the mothers of Austin, knowing that not everyone has the same story. An important pillar of Hand to Hold’s Baby Shower is a great opportunity for the women of Austin to find strength in support. Families from all walks of life can find comfort in the shared experiences of parenting. This is what Armstrong ultimately hopes for women.

“I really believe that there is a great deal of strength that comes from reaching out and being vulnerable and connecting in a community, knowing that we really do need each other,” she says.

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