"I realized that my feelings of loneliness and isolation were almost universal amongst all preemie families across the board. It further solidified for me that these families, mine included, need help."
~Jodi Klaristenfeld, FLRRiSH
I am excited to share my interview with Jodi from FLRRiSH. The work she is doing is amazing and much needed! Make sure to connect and support...
Tell us your story and how FLRRiSH began.
Everything about my life changed when I had my daughter at 28 weeks. What had been a “perfect” pregnancy suddenly turned into a frenzy of doctors, specialists, and nurses in the NICU hooking up my newborn baby to strange machines. She came 3 months earlier than planned, and I was unprepared physically and mentally. I experienced a lot of emotions. I felt the immense joy of finally bringing my daughter into the world and the fear of her situation simultaneously – a combination I never thought possible. The following 77 days as a NICU mom were a defining time in our journey. They were some of the most challenging but rewarding days of my life. I learned a lot about myself and my daughter – mainly how incredibly strong and resilient we both are.
I knew pretty early on after Jenna came home from the NICU that I wanted to do something in the preemie baby and family space–I just wasn't sure what yet. I've also learned big life decisions shouldn't be made so soon after a major event (such as marriage or having a baby) so I sat with the idea and let it marinate. It wasn't until I watched Jenna on a daily basis with therapists that I realized how fortunate I was to be able to curate her team, and that I wanted to somehow transfer this same feeling of gratitude and empowerment to other preemie parents. I wanted them to feel supported and educated so they could put their children in the best possible situation for success. I also knew that there were a lot of parents like my husband and me. By and large, preemie parents are thrown into the thick of an incredibly stressful and overwhelming situation without anywhere or anyone to turn to for advice, assistance and support. I realize I am making a difference each time I communicate with a parent. Even before starting FLRRiSH, I found talking to other parents very rewarding. I also realized that my feelings of loneliness and isolation were almost universal amongst all preemie families across the board. It further solidified for me that these families, mine included, need help. Now, when I talk with a parent, whether it be talk, text or email, hearing their “voice” smile, hearing them say “thank you for making me not feel so alone” and “thank you for helping me enjoy being a parent”, fills my heart with gratitude. When I make someone else’s journey less stressful and difficult than my own, then I know I have done my job.
What kind of impact do you hope that your organization can have?
I envision FLRRiSH helping other families flourish. You are only as happy as your least happy child. If your child is struggling, then you are too. That seeps into every aspect of life: home, work, relationships, etc. If I can help get families the resources they need for their children in an easier and quicker way, and if I can make someone’s journey less difficult than my own, then I have done my job. Whether someone is listening to the audio stories, using the resource guides to therapists and/or chatting with me one on one, I hope to be able to help parents enjoy being parents during a most stressful time. Going forward, it is my wish and hope that the counseling and other services are something that insurance companies would help pay for. Over 85% of parents of children in the NICU experience some type of mental health issue. We need to be able get parents the necessary support they need so in turn they can better support their children.
What is the biggest concern facing NICU parents today?
The biggest concern for most of my parents is two fold and depends upon where they are in their journey. For those parents in the thick of their NICU journey, aside from doing everything they can to help their child eat, sleep and grow so that they can come home, their biggest concern is what their parenting journey is going to look like, and how can I help myself change my mindset to reflect the unorthodox path we are about to take. For those that are home from the NICU, it becomes an issue of trusting yourself as a parent and learning how to navigate the system of getting your child the best and most support so that they can succeed later on in life.
What inspires you to keep advocating for families in the NICU?
When I talk to other parents, neonatologists and nurses and they tell me how much they love the work I am doing and how it is so necessary, it reiterates in my mind that FLRRiSH is onto something good. Parents shouldn't feel alone in their parenting journey and it is my mission to make sure they know there is plenty of help and resources out there for them and their children. They just need to know it exists and how to find it. Additionally, when I look at my own daughter and see how far she has come, I am so proud of the little girl she has become. She has had to fight hard each and every day since she was born and she always does so with a smile. She is tenacious, determined, strong and resilient, and these attributes fuel me in fighting each day for her and for others.
How can someone help support your mission and organization?
All I ask is for anyone who knows someone who has given born prematurely or has had a child in the NICU, that they tell them about FLRRiSH. I am trying as hard as I can to spread the word and get into hospitals. I need someone to take a chance and a leap of faith that these resources are a supplement to what they already provide and truly help serve a population of people who are left to navigate the journey on their own.
Please share anything else you would like to include such as sales or coupon codes, advice, etc.
10% discount for services purchased I'd also like to emphasize again, that NICU parents are not alone. And more than that, these children bring so much joy to their families, perhaps even more joy than those who have not had as rough of a start in the world. It is important to celebrate every everything. Creating a life is a miracle and it's even more so when you overcome a challenging journey.