Brooklyn Gillis entered the world weighing just 1 lb. and 15 oz.
Her early arrival was a surprise to new parents, Vanessa Gaudet and Sean Gillis from Moncton, New Brunswick.
Vanessa started to feel sick during her pregnancy and went to the hospital thinking that she might need to be put off on bed rest. They admitted her right away and she had her daughter the following Tuesday, September 27th, at 27 weeks.
“It all happened so fast,” remembers Sean. “It was the most terrifying moment of my life being worried about the wellbeing of my partner and my baby.”
They spent most of the next two months at The Moncton Hospital where Sean discovered the Ronald McDonald Family Room.
“I remember going to the Family Room and finally getting to sit down on a comfortable couch,” says Sean. “It was a quiet place where I could gather my thoughts. It was the first time that I could relax and respond to everyone who was messaging me and let them know how we were doing.”
Vanessa recalls her favourite memory from the Ronald McDonald Family Room. It was on one of her first visits when she felt well enough to leave her hospital bed. They were welcomed with open arms by a new volunteer. “He had such a bubbly and encouraging personality,” says Vanessa. “He made us feel so welcome and he made the most delicious squares that we’ve ever had.”
Vanessa and Sean both used the Family Room daily throughout their hospital stay.
“You are running on adrenaline so having a place where you can shower, grab a coffee and have a healthy, solid meal was so important,” says Sean.
They also bonded with other couples they met there who were going through similar situations with their newborns and were able to offer support to each other.
“The Family Room is the perfect balance of your own space and a little bit of socialization,” says Vanessa. “Having a place to share that experience meant so much.”
When they found out in early December that they would be heading home with Brooklyn, they paid another visit to the Family Room and the same volunteer from Vanessa’s first visit was there once again.
“We told him that we were being discharged and he was so happy for us,” remembers Vanessa. “He told us that he’d have to make his squares for us again that evening and he did! We enjoyed them the whole weekend before we left.”
“The staff and volunteers at the Family Room are very sensitive to what you need in that moment,” adds Sean. “It’s a safe place for families to go where they can feel protected.”