Sophia Chadwick vividly remembers the day she brought her son Rally home for the first time.
He was born prematurely, more than 2 months away from the expected due date, and spent the first weeks of his life in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Chadwick recalls the NICU as a chaotic and loud place — monitors beeping and nurses bustling.
But once they were at home, with Rally sitting quietly next to her in his lounger, she felt peaceful for the first time since her son was born.
“I remember looking at him and how quiet it was,” Chadwick says. “I just cried because there were no alarms going off, there was no one running around me, talking. There was no sound. It was so peaceful, and I was so happy.”
Rally was born in June 2020 via an emergency cesarean delivery (C-section), an experience Chadwick describes as traumatic. He weighed 3 pounds, 5 ounces (1.5 kilograms).
After he was born, the healthcare professionals placed Rally in an incubator, which kept him warm and protected him from germs. He was also hooked up to a feeding tube, heart rate and oxygen monitors, as well as a mask that pushed air into his lungs.
Chadwick and her husband, Brian McArdle, spent countless hours visiting their son in the NICU. Chadwick also juggled taking her older daughter, Maeve, to daycare and kept a strict breast-pumping schedule, pumping every few hours 24/7 to ensure Rally had enough fresh milk, which they brought to the NICU.
Since Rally was born during the COVID-19 pandemic, only one parent was allowed at his bedside at a time. Visitors were also not allowed. As a result, Chadwick, McArdle, Maeve, and Rally were never in the same room together.
Chadwick says she never truly felt like a family until the day Rally finally came home, 7 weeks after he was born.
“It was the best day ever,” she says. “[Maeve] was so excited to see him. She just kept saying, ‘He’s so small, he’s so cute.’ All she wanted to do was hold him and touch him.”
Now 16 months old, Rally is thriving at home with his family.
“[Rally] is like a bulldozer. He is just into everything — he’s very busy,” Chadwick says. “He is also very bubbly and full of life.”