"Our journey to Fort Smith, St. Edwards Mercy Center and the Ronald McDonald Family Room started on the evening of January 3rd. I was beginning to make dinner and my husband Mike was on the couch when my cell phone rang. A ringing cell phone doesn’t normally make the universe stop, but this one did. We had been anxiously awaiting news on the impending birth of our soon to be adopted baby. When our birthfather told me that they were inducing his wife, the still raw pork chops flew into the garbage and we both raced around the house in a panic, throwing clothes into suitcases, calling family and preparing the house for what we thought would be a week long absence. I had no idea the journey we were about to take.
We rode through the darkness from our Chicago suburb towards Ft. Smith and had just passed the St. Louis Arch when the phone rang again “So, what is your daughter’s name?” our birthfather asked as the most beautiful sounding cry wailed in the background. It was a girl!! Wait, we thought it was going to be a boy! You can’t call a girl Jack! We tried to keep our cool as we debated girl names and wished the miles to go by faster.
As with most highly anticipated events in life, the story of our adoption of Maggie Grace did not go exactly as planned. When we finally arrived at the hospital after an eleven hour drive, we had to wait another 2 hours to get into the NICU to see the baby. But finally, there she was, sprawled out on her tummy, all plump and pink with a little bow in her hair. She was beautiful and perfect and in a week she would be ours. And then the doctor came over to review why she was in Intensive Care in the first place. I don’t think I’ll ever forget looking out over Rogers Avenue as Dr. Seglem explained that while Maggie would be fine in the long run, it would be 3-6 weeks before she could go home. My mind raced to figure out how this was going to work, we were a 1,000 miles from home, the only people we knew in Arkansas were inside the walls of this hospital, and the most important one was this beautiful, but helpless 8 pound being. It was quickly decided that Mike would fly home in a few days to go back to work and I would stay and be with Maggie. But how would we pull this off…. logistically…. financially?
Enter the Ronald McDonald Family Room, just one floor above the NICU at St. Edwards. Our Social Worker Cindy told us that we would qualify for a room and that there was an opening. I thanked her and pretty quickly pushed it out of my mind, as I was still reeling from the news about Maggie. It wasn’t until later when Amanda gave me a tour that I began to fully comprehend what this gift would mean to us. Not only would I have a safe, clean and ultra hip place to stay (seriously, the Family Room looks to be straight out of an episode of HGTV’s Dream House) but I would also have access to a washer and dryer, a computer and meals. Suddenly many of my worries slipped away and I was able to concentrate on what mattered most…that sweet baby.
While all of the tangible things the Family Room offers are beyond wonderful, what might be most valuable are the relationships and support we received while Maggie recovered in the NICU. Sitting around the dining room table we would chat with the other parents, recapping our babies progress, the frustrations and fears and the triumphs when we each reached the end of our stay. We rooted on Bekah and Caleb and Coral and Xavier and Jayden as each made their milestones and went home and we are anxiously waiting to hear when Ella, Jaxie and Jackie are released! Those connections became invaluable as the days crawled into weeks and our stamina faded.
Today Maggie is doing great, she’s a thriving gorgeous baby and the joy of our lives. It’s been wonderful to be home and to start our new lives as a family but we will never forget the staff, volunteers and sponsors who gave us the friendship, support, meals and comfy place to stay when we needed it the most. The staff at the Ronald McDonald Family Room including Ginger, Amanda, Julie, Jackie, Jenah, Crystal and Tammy became our family for that long month and they will always hold a special place in our hearts. Thank you for taking such good care of us, so we could take care of Maggie."
-Margaret Pote, February 2011