Local Mom Offers Parents of Preemies A Hand to Hold

Kelli Kelley is a proud mom to two healthy children, now 7 and 9. But starting out, things weren’t so easy.

Kelli’s first child, Jackson, was born 16 weeks early. At birth, Jackson weighed just a pound and a half, and spent four months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Kelli spent years taking Jackson to physical, occupational and speech therapy; going through surgeries and fretting through endless doctors visits. Just a few years later, Kelli’s daughter Lauren was born, six weeks premature. Although Lauren didn’t require the same level of care as Jackson, Kelli still found herself shuttling to various doctors to address delays associated with Lauren’s prematurity.

Inspired by her experience and the challenges she faced raising two premature children, Kelli became involved in the March of Dimes. She now serves on the local chapter’s Board of Directors and spent two years serving on their National Advisory Council. It was in this position that Kelli saw first-hand what she had also experienced: support for families of preemies vanishes when they leave the hospital. Not only are preemies still medically fragile, but as she points out, “Most parents are blindsided by the emotional, physical, financial and psychological fallout of caring for their children.”

Kelli set out to create a comprehensive resource for parents of preemies. Called Hand to Hold, this organization is an official fund of the Austin Community Foundation. The organization is dedicated to matching new parents with trained volunteers who have gone through a premature birth. Although Hand to Hold has its roots in Austin and will pilot this matching program here, Kelli said the organization plans to offer peer to peer matching across the country.

In addition to peer matching, Hand to Hold will host a quarterly discussion series. The first event is just around the corner:


When: Wednesday, June 23rd; 7-9 p.m.
Where: St. David’s Medical Center (919 East 32nd Street)
Agenda: Dr. Jennifer Gunter, OB, mother of preemies and author of The Preemie Primer, www.preemieprimer, will speak about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, an issue many parents of preemies face after the NICU.
Cost: Free

Hand to Hold also plans to offer a newsletter, support groups, bereavement support, playdates and a resource guide for families.

If you’d like to learn more about Hand to Hold or to volunteer, you can visit the Hand to Hold Facebook page.

Did you experience a preterm birth? If so, what has been the most challenging aspect of having a preemie?

Written by: Nicole Basham

About Nicole Basham 793 Articles
A native Austinite and soccer-playing mom, Nicole uses her 10-year-old son as an excuse to rediscover her hometown through his eyes. In Thoreau's words, her mission is to "suck out all the marrow of life", or in her son's words, to cultivate in him a love of "advenchers".

6 Comments on Local Mom Offers Parents of Preemies A Hand to Hold

  1. Thanks for promoting this event! I know first hand the difficulties that premature children and their babies face. I hope to share some really important information at this event,

  2. I think this is great, I wish it was here when I gave birth to my son. Everyday in the nicu we thought our son was going to die because of the lack of resources. He is doing wonderful today but still has lots of delays we struggle with.He was only born 5 weeks early so I couldn’t imagine if he was born earlier.

  3. My twin daughters were born 7 weeks early. We were lucky; they were categorized as “feeder-growers” because they didn’t have any issues other than their low birth-weights and inability to maintain their body temperature. They came home from the NICU at 16 and 21 days old (and under 5 pounds).

    The hardest thing I’ve ever done was to take one child home and leave the other in the hospital. Learning to nurse two babies with such a weak suck was also hard. I spent 12+ hours a day nursing and pumping at first. My girls have had only respiratory issues resulting from their prematurity, and we feel very fortunate that they received the care they did immediately after birth.

  4. I’m a mother of 2, with another on the way. Both my kids threatened to come early. With our first, we were lucky in that he decided to keep on baking, and it was just a scare. With my second, though, my water broke at 32 weeks and she was born 12 hours later. She was in the NICU for 3 weeks. Luckily, we lived just down the street, and they let me room in at the hospital all but one of those nights, since they needed the room for a new delivery. Our hardest part of having a preemie was definitely the overload of information at the hospital to the lack of it once we were home. We had so many social workers and volunteers visit us the first two days that it got to be frustrating, because we were being kept away from our newborn. But once we got home, there was nothing, as far as help and support. This woman sure knows what the preemie mommies need! Best of luck to her.

    I’m pregnant again, and labeled “high risk,” and I’ve decided to blog about it. I hope to ask to add my blog to that lovely list on the right. This time around, I’ll be getting progesterone shots and taking extra steps to try and delay another early delivery. This, it seems, is another topic that could use more information and help for expecting parents: giving birth after a premature birth.

    Good luck, preemie mommies!

  5. Angi, giving birth after having a premature baby is an excellent idea for a discussion. Will be sure to talk about that at our next meeting to schedule something.

    Best of luck that this pregnancy makes it all the way to 40 weeks!

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