Hand to Hold

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A Mother's Hands
by Kelli Kelley, founder

I will never forget the image of my mom entering my hospital room after my son was born. She did not come bearing balloons or flowers or a soft receiving blanket. Instead of tears of joy following the birth of her first grandchild, her eyes were brimming with tears of sadness and her lips were tight with worry. As she spread her arms wide to embrace me, I warned her not to cry. Something primal in me knew that I would need to draw on her strength in the days and weeks to come. I needed her to be strong so she could bolster me through the storm ahead.

nana holding jacksonAs she stood bravely at my bedside stroking my hair and holding my hand, I showed her the Polaroid picture of her grandson, who weighed one pound and eight ounces, and was clinging to life in the NICU. The lighting was bad, and the image was fuzzy. To me he looked more like an alien than a baby. But not in Nana’s eyes. To her he was beautiful. She insisted on taping the picture to the handrail of my bed because she instinctively knew I needed to bond with this baby who I had yet to meet.

Hours later when a nurse came to take me to the NICU, I did not want to go. I did not think I could handle seeing him hooked up to monitors and machines. But my mom encouraged me to go. She told me how important it was for him to hear my voice.

In the months that followed, she was a constant presence caring for me, her baby, just as lovingly and tirelessly as the nurses in the NICU were caring for mine. She held my hand often, prayed with me and for me, reminded me of my strength and never let me give up hope.

In the sixteen years since my son’s birth, my mom has provided sage wisdom and a steady hand to hold through the wake of obstacles presented by my son’s prematurity.

I was recently chosen as a cast member of Austin's Listen to Your Mother show, a live storytelling event on the topic of motherhood. I'm thrilled for the opportunity to honor my mom publicly for the important role she has played in my journey from frightened NICU mom to founder of a national nonprofit that now supports tens of thousands of families each year.

While the NICU was the most challenging experience of my life, tucked inside its misery were tiny buds that would eventually sprout into tremendous blessings. One of them was the reminder of my mother’s deep, never-ending love. It is that source of strength and comfort that Hand to Hold strives to provide daily to all the families we serve.

Although my mom often complains now about the dark, age spots on the back of her hands, to me they are a reminder of the meals she has lovingly prepared, the miles she has driven to be by my side and the strength and love that has always radiated through them when she holds mine.

Happy Mother’s Day,


Send a Mother's Day Card, Support NICU Families 


Mother’s Day is right around the corner! As this special day draws closer, consider honoring a NICU mom or grandmother by making a donation to Hand to Hold. For donations of $25 or more through April 30th, Hand to Hold will send a recipient of your choice a Mother’s Day card with your personalized message. Click here to donate today. Your gift ensures families have a Hand to Hold before, during and after the NICU.

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Dates to Remember 

calendarApril: RSV season ends!  
April 22-28: National Infant Immunization Week
April 25-29: NICU Leadership Forum, Phoenix, AZ
April 27-29: Texas Maternal Mental Health & Wellness Conference, Austin, TX
May: Preeclampsia Awareness Month, Mental Health Awareness Month
May 6-12: National Nurses' Week
May 14: Mother's Day

Connect With Us

Like us on Facebook!Follow us on Twitter!Watch us on YouTubePin us on PinterestNICU Family Voices 28nicu family forum 28

Ratings & Reviews needed for NICU Now

NICU now stackedJoin the 1,000 parents tuning in weekly across 25 countries (6 continents) to listen to NICU Now, Hand to Hold’s new, FREE podcast. NICU Now is a 15-episode audio support series geared towards parents currently in the NICU. The series is available on Stitcher and iTunes, or by visiting handtohold.org/NICUNow.

After you listen, we encourage you to leave a brief review! Not only do many people rely on recommendations, reviews will help NICU Now's visibility in searches. For instructions on how to rate and review the series, click here.

Kelli Kelley cast in Austin's Listen to Your Mother show

ltymCome see Kelli Kelley on Saturday, April 29 as she takes the stage at Listen to Your Mother Austin's 2017 Grand Finale show. Listen to Your Mother is a national series of locally-produced shows in which local writers and authors share their stories on the beauty and the beast that is motherhood. Find out more here!

Save the Date for the 2017 Baby Shower Luncheon!

baby shower logo

Mark your calendars for Hand to Hold’s 4th Annual Baby Shower Luncheon on October 20th at the JW Marriott in downtown Austin, TX. Our featured speaker will be Kristin Schell of The Turquoise Table. We are also excited to announce a live performance from Texas musician Randy Rogers of the Randy Rogers Band. Chairing our event are NICU graduate parents and community leaders, Melissa and Brandon Cason. For more information, click here.

Thank You, Early Bird Sponsors!

Thank you to these generous Early Bird Sponsors:

St. David's Healthcare
Austin's First Steps
Lana Macrum-Craig & Ronda Gray
The Pemberton Family
JE Dunn Construction 

If you or your business are interested in sponsoring the 2017 Baby Shower Luncheon, there is still time to be featured on the Save the Date card! Contact Jennifer at  JenniferHayhurst@handtohold.org for sponsorship information. 

Volunteer Opportunities

Kelli visits VictoriaVolunteer your time to write supportive notes to be given to families in the NICU now and to say thanks to NICU staff during special recognition months. Or virtually correspond with a family who has had an experience similar to yours by becoming a Helping Hand peer mentor. Whether you have a little or a lot of time, we have a spot for you to make a difference today. Get started.

Connect to Support on Your Schedule

Julie Cruz and hubbieA baby's NICU stay or loss can be a lonely and isolating experience. Let our experienced Family Support Navigators help you connect to information, resources and support to help make the journey easier for you. Send us a request to begin

Past Issues

Read past eNewsletters.

   About Hand to Hold
Hand to Hold logoHand to Hold is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization providing comprehensive navigation resources and support programs to parents of preemies, babies born with special health care needs and those who have experienced a loss due to these or other complications. 

Hand to Hold - www.handtohold.org - 855-H2H-NICU

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