We had the good fortune of connecting with Sarah Ward and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sarah, as a parent, what have you done for you children that you feel has had the most significant impact?
The most important thing I have done as a parent is being present and listening. I may not have the best parenting techniques or allow my children to have everything they ask for, but I can say without a doubt that I will always show up and be in their corner. When my 3 were born they all went into the neonatal intensive care unit. Some days we were not allowed to hold them, but we sat with them, read to them, and prayed for them throughout their entire journey home. Through the toddler stages we answered ALL the questions and asked them the same ones. We listened and were delighted to hear their imaginative answers about things others would consider mundane. Being in the moment is so difficult in an age where everyone is multitasking and full of distractions. I hope that as my children get older they will know that their parents will always be there for them and listen to their thoughts and opinions, no matter how we feel about the topic they are discussing.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
On my journey to become an author I am most proud of coming out of my shell to tell our story.. I have a B.S. in Health Promotion and Behavior from the University of Georgia and through my studies I learned the importance of being an advocate. Using our story to help others has been extremely rewarding and also therapeutic for our own birth traumas. Reading through the NICU helped my husband and I cope with our NICU journeys. Reading to newborns reduces stress, soothes, aids in neurological development, and helps with parent/baby bonding (especially on days we were unable to hold our babies). It also inspired our love letter to the NICU community. “Our NICU journey” is an uplifting children’s book and keepsake that follows first time parents as their children find the strength, courage, and perseverance to come home. The illustrations were created from real photographs of our journeys through the NICU and of real members of neonatal medical teams. It has taken years to fully grasp and overcome the emotional rollercoaster that stems from having a loved one in the neonatal intensive care unit. Most people do not realize the difficulties many families face while behind those hospital doors and you really do not know how stressful and scary it is until you are thrown into it. Reaching out and connecting with fellow NICU families is helpful and hearing, seeing, or reading success stories gives families hope. Faith and hope will guide parents through their time in the NICU, which is why we made our book a keepsake. Recording important milestones displays progress and on the hard days families must rejoice in every victory they can. We hope that sharing our story will raise awareness for the NICU community and help NICU families, past and present, know that they are not alone.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
First stop would be a hike up Stone Mountain, then a show at the Fox Theater, and dessert/drinks at Cafe Intermezzo is definitely on the list of places to visit in Atlanta. The aquarium is also a favorite for the whole family.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
We would love to give a shoutout to the men and women in the NICU community who brought us so much joy during a difficult time in our lives. We are forever thankful to the doctors, nurses, therapist, and staff at UAB (University of Alabama at Birmingham) Women and Infants Center and University Hospital of Augusta for bringing our miracles home. We are grateful for the assistance from so many organizations including Beads of Courage®, March of Dimes, Medela, Mother’s Milk Bank at Austin, the Purple Butterfly Project, and so many others for being resources in our time of need. We appreciate the time and dedication given by my editors: Tamara Rittershaus and Debbie Kupfer. I would like to thank my illustrator Andrea Brasier for creating true works of art from our NICU photos. I am so appreciative to my designer Arlene Soto who provided excellent direction and brought our book to life. Lastly, but certainly not least, I want to thank my friends and family, especially my husband and children, for their patience, support, and encouragement to inspire such a beautiful keepsake.
Book Mockup and logo designed by Arlene Soto at Intricate Designs, headshot taken by Katy Frasier at Nolan Creek Photography, toes photo taken by Amy J. Owen Photography, logo image created by Kristyna Loundy