Jessica Wade: Life After the NICU
Updated: Aug 1, 2019
As long as I've known Jessica (since way back in our high school days) she has always been a warm and welcoming presence. Always with a smile, quick to give a compliment, and has a laugh that's super contagious. Even if you're having a bad day, after walking away from a conversation with Jessica, you'll probably be feeling a bit better.
It's easy to forget that even people as consistently positive as Jessica have their own bad days; their own challenges and struggles to get through.
Back when Jessica had her first son Marlon, I learned (through social media and mutual friends) that she had some complications during her pregnancy. It was such a relief to find out months later that after a stay in the NICU, Marlon was cleared to go home. It wasn't until at least a year after that, when Jessica started sharing her testimony on Instagram, that I learned more about what her and her family had endured in those months.
I spoke with Jessica to find out more about how she got through such a challenging time, and to learn about her new non-profit organization, Mighty Little Giants.
I know that Mighty Little Giants was inspired by your own experience giving birth to your first son Marlon. Can you tell us about your birth experience?
My experience giving birth to my first child was something I would have NEVER imagined it would be! When my husband and I found out we were pregnant we immediately scheduled an appointment with my doctor. During our first ultrasound to our surprise the doctor tells us that we were pregnant but… the baby didn’t have a heartbeat so they wanted to perform an emergency DNC (method of abortion). Thank God for my husband because he asked if we could wait a week if it wasn’t going to hurt me, so we scheduled it a week and a half. When we returned for the procedure they gave us what we thought would be our last ultrasound, and they found TWO heartbeats!
Due to complications we unfortunately miscarried one of the babies causing my water to break at 21 weeks pregnant.
In order to save the life of our child (Marlon Wade Jr.) who was still in my womb, I remained on bed-rest in the hospital for eight weeks. Once Marlon was born at 28 weeks, he endured a 143 day stay at the Antelope Valley Hospital and Children's Hospital of Los Angeles with extremely low chances of survival. Through the power of prayer, Marlon Jr. was discharged from the hospital at five months old.
During my hospital stay we literally lost almost everything we had but each other! We had to move out of our home, our cars broke down, and my husband lost his job the DAY Marlon Jr. was born. Now that we’ve overcome the trials and tribulations of 2014, we’ve been blessed with another son KaRon Carter Wade! We’ve truly become the light at the end of the tunnel for the Mighty Little Giant families by providing hope during depression, and peace in the midst of a storm.
What was the most valuable thing you learned from that experience?
The most valuable thing that I learned is the importance of advocating for my child and myself! I’ve also learned to trust my intuition and how to speak up to the doctors and nurses when I knew deep down in my heart that something was wrong. I’m so grateful that I did.
Tell us about Mighty Little Giants. What is the mission of the organization?
O my goodness, Mighty Little Giants is my baby! It’s been on my heart for a couple years to create a NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) support group, but I just didn’t know where or how to start. I prayed on it for a while and I gave God my YES! It took months to come up with the name. I wrote down every word that described a NICU baby and Mighty Little Giants stood out the most!
Mighty, because they are stronger than any adult I’ve ever met.
Little, well, they’re little LOL!
Giants, because their spirits are larger than life!
I called AV Hospital where MJ spent some of his hospital stay, and they did not have a support group so I asked them to give me a try. They trusted me with the vision, and here I am now! At first I just wanted to host “Craft & Conversation” sessions with the families, but God had other plans. Mighty Little Giants is now incorporated (Mighty Little Giants, Inc.) and we will have our 501(c) (3) status within the next 45 days. We are on the parent board at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and we’ve also received out first Community Engagement grant from the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA) and the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (LACDMH).
We provide support, education and hope for mothers and fathers experiencing pre-term deliveries. Our mission is to bridge the gap for our families’ who have babies in the NICU by embracing our core values: integrity, compassion, and encouragement.
In addition to the NICU/NICCU support services, we also support our families with monthly events, peer-to-peer mentoring, emergency financial support, and life after the NICU skills.
What has it meant to you personally to be helping families that are going through a similar situation that you went through years ago?
Every time I talk to a family, cry with parents, and walk the hospital hallways I always thank God for using me. Thank God that our story ended the way it did and now we’re creating a new chapter. It literally means the world to me that we’re able to be an example of a family that’s been where they are and have overcome the trauma of having a child in the NICU.
With Marlon, things turned out amazingly. What has it been like helping families that have not had the same type of happy ending?
I’m thankful that all of my babies have made it home from the NICU. I do have some babies that are in need of heart surgeries and who have brain bleeds and things of that nature, but as of now they are expected to make it home. I do have a friend who is now my sister who has lost a baby in the NICU. I have her on standby to provide peer-to-peer support to the families that might have to overcome that grief in the future.
What do you envision Mighty Little Giants becoming in the next five years?
Currently, I’m working on creating a program for foster families who receive NICU babies. I pray that we’re able to partner with the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to provide support to the NICU babies in Foster care. I would also like to have our resource center up and running as well as contracts with multiple underserved hospitals.
What is your biggest piece of advice you would give to a mom that is currently faced with caring for a child in the NICU?
Advocate for your baby, be present, take care of yourself, pray, and take it one day at a time.