There is one question you get asked without fail when you tell people you’re expecting a child: “Do you want a girl or a boy?” For many the answer is: “We don’t care; we’ll be happy as long as they’re healthy!” So often we take the healthy part for granted. No one expects to hear news otherwise. But what if things don’t go according to plan?
Growing our herd
In 2019, our family of three was eagerly awaiting the arrival of our second child. My wife’s pregnancy started out no different from the first, going to every doctor’s appointment, saving each sonogram, listening to heartbeats and eventually learning we were going to be having another little girl!
My wife and I were overwhelmed with joy to tell our first daughter that she would be getting a little sister. Everything was going the way it was supposed to until our 20-week anatomy scan when we discovered that our little girl would be born with Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia(CDH), a rare and severe congenital disability.
Prepare for the worst and hope for the best
What was an exciting appointment turned into a sinking worry. What is CDH? How does this happen?
CDH is when the diaphragm doesn’t form properly, causing the abdominal organs to enter the chest cavity, stunting lung development. The condition occurs in 1 out of 2,500 babies and historically has a survival rate of 50%. As we sat there and tried to comprehend the first explanation, all we could feel at that moment was distress. We consulted with several children’s hospitals for second opinions, which all ended with a very poor diagnosis and low survival rates.
After days of research, we found that only one hospital in the US had a dedicated NICU for CDH babies, achieving 90% survival rates. The only problem is they were in St. Petersburg, FL, while we lived in Austin, TX.
Real hope for CDH
My wife and I consulted with the CDH specialist in Florida where we received a much better diagnosis and survival rate. We also learned just how strenuous the process of having a CDH baby can be and the arduous journey my daughter would have to be able to come home. Though CDH is an extremely complicated diagnosis, the decision to deliver in Florida was simple. It was our daughter’s best chance at life.
With that decided, we faced yet another hurdle; how are we going to financially afford to uproot our lives? While we were facing the reality of the temporary move to Florida, The Zebra announced a brand new parental leave policy. Under this new policy, I learned that as a secondary caregiver I was going to receive a total of 4 months off while maintaining 100% of my pay. To say that this was huge news for our family is a gross understatement. Any stress I had about keeping my job or paying bills while my daughter was in the NICU suddenly disappeared. I was going to be able to put my daughter in the best hands possible without anything else to worry about except getting my little girl home.
Our little miracle
Even after the four months of parental leave, my managers were incredibly accommodating. They assured me no work needed to be done in my absence and to focus 100% of my energy on my daughter. Past employers would have signed me up for unpaid FMLA and wished me luck. The amount of love I received from The Zebra was unforgettable and shows just how much they care for their employees.
My daughter Lynnon started fighting for her life the day she was born. Through life support, multiple surgeries and many late nights, I was able to sit through every single day of her journey right next to her hospital bed. When she was born, not only was I able to be there for her, I was also given $5,000 in “baby cash” per The Zebra’s new parental leave policy. With this stipend, I was able to pay for flights to and from Florida, and even able to cover most of Lynnon’s medical expenses. The Zebra supported us every step of the way.
After 90 days of my daughter fighting like hell in the NICU, we were able to bring her home to Austin and finally bring our family together under one roof. I truly believe Lynnon wouldn’t be with us today without The Zebra. The overwhelming support they give shows The Zebra truly cares about parents in the workplace. Today, Lynnon is almost 2 and is one happy little girl!