We originally wrote this post in March last year – right before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted our lives. We are all concerned about the health of our children right now as we adjust to our “new normal”, but Jacob’s story shows why health and safety was important before – and will be important after – COVID-19. Encouraging sanitary habits keeps us all safe, and shows children that we care about their health.
If you walked into Today’s Family, you probably wouldn’t be able to point out young Jacob Moniz from the gaggle of other happy toddlers. But despite blending in, Jacob is a very special child.
Jacob was born prematurely – almost 15 weeks early. Jacob was born with very underdeveloped lungs, which were further damaged by a breathing tube needed to keep him alive in his earliest days. As a result, Jacob can become sick easier than most children, and when he does get sick, his body has trouble fully fighting whatever ails him.
We heard that Jacob’s mother has written a book about Jacob’s first days (Jacob’s Journey: The Boy Born Early), which lead us to have a great conversation with her about her child and being a mother. Dr. Sandy Moniz is a clinical psychologist, and so it makes sense that her story blends an expert’s calm hope with a mother’s loving concern. The following is a conversation we had with Dr. Moniz:
Today’s Family: Before we get started, let’s talk about your son. How is Jacob doing?
Dr. Moniz: Jacob loves his teachers and is apparently quite social in daycare. I was told he loves climbing everything and is also always on the go. He also loves to play with anything that’s not an actual toy. As busy as he is he can’t get enough cuddles though. He is a very happy-go-lucky boy and we are told he’s adored by all his teachers. He drives us crazy at home because he is always on the go and loves to bug his big brother Patrick. But we wouldn’t change a thing.
TF: So, you wrote a book about your son’s first days! What led you to want to write Jacob’s Journey?
Dr. Moniz: When Jacob was in the NICU I tried to isolate myself and was not comfortable talking to other NICU parents. I looked for children’s books to read to Jacob about preemiehood (since I exhausted Dr. Seuss and Robert Munch) and didn’t find any that we’re appropriate and provided hope. I hope this will validate other preemie parents’ emotions: fear, sadness, but also gratitude.
I would love for other parents to read this book and feel inspired that their little one can make it through the NICU journey too and have that remarkable resilience as a result. As a Psychologist I have learned that hope and inspiration can go a long way in anyone’s journey.
TF: Nobody wants their child to get sick, but we know that Jacob is a bit of a unique case. Can you tell us a little about Jacob’s unique concerns?
Dr. Moniz: Since Jacob was born at 25 weeks his lungs were very underdeveloped. As a result, when he gets a virus or infection we may need to stop by the ER at McMaster Children’s Hospital for special medications and treatment. Sometimes those visits turn into admissions because Jacob needs oxygen. [In 2019] we were at Mac for 10 days because he had the flu and pneumonia. We were also there last Christmas for 14 days because he got rhino/enterovirus (the common cold) and pneumonia.
TF: Knowing that children can get sick easily, because their immune systems are still developing, how did you feel about sending Jacob to a child care program, where he would be interacting with other children?
Dr. Moniz: When we initially decided to put Jacob into daycare we were very concerned about him getting sick since he’s much more vulnerable to being ill than other children (babies born to term). Fortunately Ms. Stephanie (the Program Coordinator) made herself available numerous times to discuss ways we could minimize the risk to Jacob and support him as much as possible.
TF: What are some of the things you appreciate about Today’s Family, and how we make sure Jacob is as safe as can be?
Dr. Moniz: After Jacob was sick in December, my husband and I looked for a nanny because we were frightened he would get very sick again and need to be in hospital. Stephanie gave me resources in the event that we may want to switch to a home daycare and validated my concerns. When those resources were not a good fit, Ms. Stephanie and I had numerous discussions again about how to make daycare an even safer environment for Jacob (more sanitizer, more signs encouraging parents to clean their hands, education on infections for teachers, etc.). Again, I believe there was a lot done behind the scenes that I don’t even know about. Needless to say, both management and teachers supported us and never made me feel like a nuisance (which I felt I was being at times).
TF: Is there anything else you want to say?
Dr. Moniz: My husband and I are very grateful to have Today’s Family taking care of our special guys. The teachers are so patient and sweet to both Patrick and Jacob and we couldn’t ask for more caring and compassionate people supporting our miracles. Every child is truly a marvel and I get the sense that Today’s Family staff wholeheartedly believe that too.
I also want to thank Today’s Family for supporting my journey to raise awareness of premature babies and provide hope and inspiration to preemie parents.
Dr. Moniz’s book Jacob’s Journey: The Boy Born Early is now available! You can pick up a copy for yourself through Amazon.