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Kathryn Whitaker Reflects on Seasons of Parenting as a NICU Mom

Guest co-host of the Busted Halo Show Kathryn Whitaker shares her reflections on her time spent in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and different seasons of motherhood. Kathryn now hosts a podcast called NICU Babies Parent Support from the national nonprofit organization, Hand to Hold.

“Hand to Hold pairs seasoned NICU parents with ones that are there right now. So our podcast really focuses on people that are preparing to be in the NICU, they’re there right now, or [in a] post-NICU stay,” Kathryn explains. Thirteen years ago, her fifth child spent his first 44 days in the NICU and needed seven surgeries early in life. “Now we get to share things that we experienced with other parents. The podcast that I wish had existed 13 years ago is now online; it’s a full circle moment.”

“There are plenty of parents who think they know what the NICU is, but they don’t recognize that it’s going to be so traumatic,” Kathryn shares, and notes that many parents, including herself, suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder following a NICU stay. “It’s a hard place to be. So to be able to sort of alleviate people’s fears or just [say], ‘Hey, I see you, I know what it’s like to be there, and I’m really sorry that you’re there. But here are some really good resources or tools that you can use to maybe make that stay not so traumatic.”

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Kathryn recently emceed the organization’s annual reunion for NICU “graduates,” which featured 500 children at the Q2 Stadium in Austin, TX. She shares, “We go back to the NICU reunion every year because our doctors and nurses get to see our kids grow up. It’s such a cathartic and beautiful thing…It’s a celebration, like not only is it one more year that we’re out of the NICU, but look at the milestones that my kid is meeting. It’s just awesome. I told all the parents out there, ‘I hope these older kids are inspiring you that someday your child is going to meet milestones that they can’t meet today.’”

“These kids overcome major obstacles, and it’s just such a joy to see them go be who God meant them to be in the world. It’s my favorite thing,” she says.

As a longtime friend of Kathryn’s, Father Dave asks for her reflections on parenting six children and different seasons of life. They also note how Krista is in the early stages of her parenting journey, as the mom of a 22-month-old girl.

“Krista, you’re in the trenches right now,” Kathryn says. “I think the hardest part of parenting is when they’re physically demanding; they’re hanging on you, they’re peeing on you, they’re throwing up on you, and they need all of you. So I call that the trenches because there’s so many things that they need from you physically.” 

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Kathryn describes the season she is in now, where her children don’t have as many physical needs but need emotional support. “Before, I used to say, ‘Do you want the red cup or the yellow cup?’ And now they’re like, ‘Can you please help me discern this huge life decision that I have to make?’” she says. “God was gracious and in planning humanity…Not only do your children get older and need more from you, but hopefully, God willing, you get wiser. You’ve made a lot of mistakes, but you’ve gone through seasons with your children.”

Kathryn continues, “You have so much to look forward to. There’s going to be some valleys and some highs, but man, God has such a good ride in store for parents. We just have to lean in and strap in for the ride because it’s so beautiful.”