Brooke and Mickey’s parenting journey can easily be described as “unique”. They first met their adopted son, Evan, in the Peggy V. Helmerich Women’s Health Center neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Hillcrest Medical Center. Not long after Brooke and Mickey brought Evan home, Brooke learned she was pregnant. Their biological son, Sawyer, also needed care in the NICU and combined, Sawyer and Evan spent a total of 139 days in the NICU, and the kind and compassionate care they received helped them grow into healthy, strong children.
Brooke shares, “We had waited 10 years thinking we were going to have children and it just didn’t happen. The first day we walked into the NICU, we had never been in there before so I made a long list of questions to ask, just because I had no idea what we were walking into.”
While Brooke wasn’t sure what to expect in the NICU, there is one lesson that is certain, she was incredibly touched by the care her son received from the nurses there. She adds, “The first nurse we met, Pam, walked up with me when I was meeting my son for the first time and she said to him, “Wake up baby, your mama’s here.” From that moment on, that was the embrace we received from all of the nurses. They answered every one of our questions and really wanted to teach us.”
Evan spent over 60 days in the NICU, which allowed Brooke and Mickey to interact with many of the nurses, lactation consultants, and respiratory therapists, among others. Brooke shares that while it may be hard having your child in the NICU, she saw the importance of trusting the nurses to take care of her baby. “It’s very hard because you’re the parent, and especially being a first-time parent, you want to make sure your child is okay, so it’s hard to hand them over and say “okay, I can trust you, it’s going to be okay!” Brooke adds, “I found that these nurses want to teach you, they want you to know how to be able to put your hands in and touch your baby. They want you to be a part of changing their diaper, taking their temperature, if it’s allowed at the time, they really want nothing more than for you to be a part of taking care of them. You can still feel like a mom even if your baby is needing a little extra care in the NICU.”
While Brooke acknowledges that walking out of the hospital without her baby is one of the hardest things she’s ever done, she describes that creating a hospital routine to visit and care for Evan was a huge help in an immensely difficult time. “You go home and you don’t know what to do with yourself without your baby. But once we got into a routine of going to the hospital and being involved with his care times, it gave me back that “mom” moment, where I could say, “Okay, I changed my child’s diaper today, I got to put clothes on him, and I got to feed him a bottle for the first time.”
Soon after bringing Evan home from the NICU, Brooke found out she was pregnant. “When I got pregnant, it just happened out of the blue and Sawyer came along really early, and I was just terrified. When Sawyer was born, he was very, very tiny. Again, those same nurses from when Evan was in the NICU were there making sure I was okay. Nurses came down on their break and said “it’s going to be okay! We have you, we’ve got this. It’s going to be alright.” That was such a huge deal to me.” Brooke says she didn’t just feel immense support from the nurses, but from all of the staff at the Peggy V. Helmerich Women’s Health Center. “I formed a really special bond with Leanne, who works the help desk downstairs and is amazing. I would walk in the door and she was just so encouraging, asking how my morning was and telling me she had been praying for us the night before. I was in the elevator once and was having a really tough day and the man who was in there said “I don’t know what you’re going through, but I just want you to know that I think about you every day and I’m praying for you. You’re met with kindness at every turn - all the people that we talked to - that’s really how it was.”
“With Sawyer, we were in the NICU for 78 days and a lot of the same nurses that had Evan also had Sawyer, so at that point we had spent almost 140 days in the NICU collectively. A lot of those nurses had become like friends. We follow each other on Facebook now, it’s really cool because I’m able to be involved in their lives, and they’re able to be involved in the boy’s lives and know how much they’ve grown. Evan is 7 now, even since then I think about our time in that NICU daily. Which is something that changes you - the way you live your life, you stay thankful, you are grateful for every single step. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about how amazing our time was there and how amazing the people that work there are.”
Brooke and Mickey are the proud parents of Evan, 7, Sawyer, 6, and Weston, 3, and while Brooke says she always thought she would be a “girl mom”, having boys is a great joy. “Watching them grow, learn new things, and come into their own, they all three have totally different personalities, it’s been such a joy to be their mom and to watch them come into their own little person. They all start out the same way, but I have one who’s an artist - just very artistic. Everything he does is building, drawing and writing books. Then I have another one who’s all about animals - everything. The other one is just a wild card, he’s the baby. That’s probably my favorite thing about being a mom- watching them discover new things, who they are, and what they’re going to be. Every day is such an adventure to them and I just love it," she says.
Brooke shares that she has had many people reach out to her after hearing her story from the NICU. “A lot of times, I’ll get messages from friends of friends who knew I was in the NICU who say, “We’re really scared because today we heard that I might go into pre-term labor, and we know we’re going to have to deliver early.” “That’s never something that you want to hear and I just try my best to pass along that encouragement that I always got in the NICU.” Brooke adds, “I want them to know, it’s going to be a hard road, but once you’re there, they take care of you. It’s amazing. And I always ask, are you going to Hillcrest? Because that’s where you need to be!”
When reflecting years later about her family’s time in the NICU, Brooke concludes that she would give herself some advice, saying “I would tell myself just to breathe, and that it’s going to be okay. I spent so much time holding my breath and being afraid, and if I could go back, I'd tell myself, “Hey! It’s alright not to be alright, but it’s going to be okay. It’s the truth, at least in my life. Our time there truly did change our lives. The people that we encountered there truly did change our lives.”