In 2013, Allison Kleinschmidt and her husband, Tom, welcomed into the world son Daniel Thomas Kleinschmidt at just 29 weeks. It was traumatic.
In 2013, Allison Kleinschmidt and her husband, Tom, of Glenside, welcomed into the world son Daniel Thomas Kleinschmidt at just 29 weeks gestational age. Weighing only two pounds, Daniel would go on to spend 55 days hospitalized at Jefferson Abington’s Andrew Tesauro Special Care Nursery, a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
The experience for Kleinschmidt, a marketing professional who had given birth two years earlier to daughter Charlotte after an uneventful pregnancy, was so traumatic that Kleinschmidt had to be intubated in the adult ICU herself and eventually had to be treated for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Ten years later, Kleinschmidt has written a self-published book, “Goodnight NICU,” an illustrated bedtime story for parents with babies in the NICU. “The mental health of NICU parents is not talked about enough,” Kleinschmidt told us last week. “I host support groups for NICU parents, telling them how to get help. It is normal to have stress. People focus on the baby but not on the parent. It hit me in a delayed fashion with churned-up emotion at Daniel's first birthday. I worked with doctors and got the help I needed. I don't want others to be caught off guard.
“One of the most challenging and heartbreaking aspects of being a NICU parent is having to go home each night while your baby remains in the hospital under the care of neonatal staff. I wrote this book to bring comfort to NICU parents as they experience this part of their journey.”
According to the National Center for Health Statistics at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 38,011.843 babies born in the U.S. in the years between 2010 and 2020. In 2010, 6.59 percent of those newborns wound up in one of the 1,424 NICUs in the country. Ten years later, however, that number had risen significantly to 9.07 percent. And percentages of low birth weight and very low birth weight were twice as high among Black infants as they were among white and Hispanic infants.
Illustrated by Elettra Cudignotto, an artist in Italy who was pregnant when she drew the charming illustrations, “Goodnight NICU” has a warm and whimsical feel with visual elements that are familiar to NICU families, such as IV poles, medical leads and tubes, and the practice of “kangaroo care” (skin-to-skin contact, such as tucking a baby in a shirt, which is said to be conducive to emotional bonding).
“I thought a book like this must exist when I had Daniel, but I could not find one so I wrote one myself,” said Allison. “We did not know anyone who had an NICU baby.”
“Goodnight NICU” is available from major online retailers and is also stocked in some hospital gift shops. Nonprofits and other groups that wish to gift the book directly to parents can contact the author.
In an Instagram video chat, Sarah Immonen Ward, author of “Our NICU Journey: Tiny Keepsake for Tiny Miracles,” remarked to Kleinschmidt about “Goodnight NICU,” “What a sweet book. I just love, too, how we’re all getting to connect as NICU parents (on Instagram) and authors, too. What a crazy journey we’ve all been on. You were in bed, too. That's so scary. So cool to come out on the other side and add your book to the amount of great resources for NICU parents.”
An online five-star review of “Goodnight NICU” from someone who just identified herself as “Sarah” said, “It's so hard to find the perfect thing to say to parents of babies who are currently in or have spent time in the NICU. This book by a NICU mom truly makes the perfect gift for those looking for the right words during such a scary time … Love this book.”
Tom Kleinschmidt, a service technician for Verizon for the last 20 years, met Allison when both were students at Abington High School. Allison, a graduate of La Salle University who studied in the school's writing/tutoring program, was a copywriter for the QVC/Home Shopping Network for 12 years and has worked in marketing for the Toll Brothers home building company for the past five years. Daniel is now a 10-year-old fourth grader at Copper Beech Elementary School in Glenside. He recently was given an MLK Jr. Peace Award by the school. “It made my heart sing,” said his proud mom.
For more information, visit GoodnightNICU.com. Len Lear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org