Paula Santiago and Son

New parents find family when it’s most needed

Our son was born early and unexpectedly. My husband and I have no family living here in the United States, but we are very close with our parents, siblings and extended families who live in Brazil and the Philippines.

Family is essential to both of us, and we had plans for our relatives to travel across the globe for visits once the baby was born.

But sometimes, plans get derailed and you find yourself in a situation you didn’t expect. We found ourselves having a baby earlier than planned with no family present.

During this time, I so desperately needed a sense of family, a sense of comfort.

We found that within the caregivers at OSF HealthCare Heart of Mary Medical Center in Urbana, Illinois. They went beyond our wildest dreams and truly cared for us like we were their own family.

Thankful every day for our OSF family

I work in the hospital, and sometimes when I see my son’s neonatologist or one of my nurses, I get an overwhelming urge to hug them.

Santiago FamilyThey think they were just doing their job, but to me they feel like family. They gave me the greatest gift of all – my son. Every time that I look at my son, I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the care we received that led to me holding him in my arms each day.

Having our first child with no family close by, I did all that I could to prepare. I read all the books. We attended as many classes as possible. We even had the nursery set.

And then, during my 37-week routine check-up, the doctor told me she wanted to induce labor that night.

My doctor stated I had pre-eclampsia and my baby was no longer safe in my womb.

I remember sitting in complete shock thinking I was totally unprepared and not ready for this baby to come even after all the planning I had done.

I began to worry. I began to think of everything that could go wrong with an early birth. I started to think about not having family around to help me through what’s ahead.

Expert, compassionate care

My blood pressure spiked even higher due to the stress and anxiety.

My nurses sensed my anxiety and one nurse in particular stands out in my mind – she truly embodied the Sisters’ Mission of compassionate care.

With no family present during the delivery besides my husband, Andre, I desperately needed a mother figure by my side.

Karen became my serenity, my sense of family. With Karen by my side, and after 30 hours of labor, Gianluca was finally born.

But he had respiratory issues and had to be admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

I had a grocery list of questions for my nurses. Not only were they compassionate and understanding, ensuring to keep me calm while showing great professionalism.

They knew the answers to all of my oddball questions as a new mother. At that moment, I knew my son was being treated by a level of expertise that other moms only dream about.

And for that, I am forever grateful to all of my nurses at OSF Heart of Mary.

A memory of a lifetime

During discharge when a nurse was wheeling me out of the birthing unit, I remember having this moment of looking behind me towards the birthing unit that we had just left.

I wanted to freeze that moment in time. I wanted to remember everything about it – every caregiver, every sound, even all the moments when I felt overwhelmed.

In that instant, I felt a sense of peace.

I developed a fondness for the men and women who work in the Blessed Beginnings Birthing Center at OSF Heart of Mary.

They showed me that family can exist outside of my relatives and how serving with the greatest care and love can touch a person’s soul when they need it most.