July 29, 2018
The pain and exhaustion of giving birth to a baby quickly transforms into the excitement and uncertainty of strapping a tiny baby into a car seat, then the joy of wrapping a warm body in your arms in the quiet comfort of home. At least the that’s the image many have of the experience of welcoming a child. But the parents of over 15 million babies a year face a different reality. They go through the trial of childbirth only to hand their premature infant to the skilled hands of doctors and nurses. They wait in hospital rooms and watch the baby they long to have in their arms through windows. These parents often have to leave the hospital without their baby, driving home with the brand new car seat empty.
Jill and Matt Gilmore have been through that. Four out of their seven children were born prematurely. When their seventh, Marleigh, was born at 28 weeks, the Gilmore’s were touched by the sense that they were not alone in their journey of waiting and uncertainty. They felt the presence of God and were helped by others to get through the dark time. After that experience, they felt led to begin Marleighs Ministry (http://marleighsministry.org/), to give others the assurance that they, too, are not alone.
Marleighs Ministry, started in Wisconsin, now provides care packages internationally to families of premature babies, or “preemies.” The care packages consist of basic necessities, like diapers and wipes, but also items for hope and comfort, like a Bible, a scented heart, homemade baby items, and a letter of encouragement. For many families who are waiting for their baby to come home, this may be a journey of extreme loneliness. In addition to fears about their child’s health, parents grieve the loss of the experience they had imagined, the experience that they had seen so many others go through—of bringing home a healthy newborn and adjusting together to a new life. They may not know anyone else who has had a preemie and had to go through this time of waiting in uncertainty. Marleigh’s Ministries, whose advisory board is made up of men and women who have been through a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) journey, creates a connection with people who share this experience.