I am so honored to introduce you to this week’s Smarty Mom, Lindsay Franks. She is the mother to sweet Pierce, a now five-year-old boy whose story of survival after being born at 23 weeks is absolutely incredible, and founder of Pierce’s Project, a non-profit that helps support families of premature or chronically ill infants before, during and after their NICU stay. Lindsay was recently featured last week on CSP in our post with Levine Children’s Hospital, Donated Breast Milk Helps Preemies Thrive, and I was so thrilled when Lindsay agreed to be Smarty Mom this week so we could get to know her and her family a little better.
I’ll let you read our interview for more on this beautiful family. And, get ready: you’re about to meet one of Charlotte’s most amazing Smarty Mamas! I introduce you to Lindsay Franks!
Smarty Mom: Lindsay Franks
Smarty Mom Stats:
Married to (and for how long): Nik, 8 years in May
Child: (Name and age): Pierce, 5 years old
Years in Charlotte: 8 years
Hometown: Greenville, SC
‘Hood: Fort Mill, SC
Alma Mater: Montreat College
Pierce’s life and his journey are an absolute miracle. Tell us about his birth and the months following.
Pierce was born at just 23 weeks gestation, right at the edge of what doctors deem the “age of viability.” He weighed 1lb 8oz and was 12 inches long. We were told that there was a slim chance he’d survive. As you can imagine, his first few days and weeks were extremely critical. There were many times we thought we were losing him. He was just so tiny and so fragile. I remember his nurse taking a picture of him next to a standard sized ink pen and noticing that the pen was the same length as his body. I think that’s when I started to understand how tiny he truly was. But thankfully, Pierce survived his 118-day NICU stay at Levine Children’s and was able to come home in August 2011. Those early months were definitely filled with lots of ups and downs and there was a lot of uncertainty about what the future would hold.
Looking back, how did you get through those first few months when he was in the NICU? Is there someone or something that stands out to you?
My husband and I relied on our faith. It was one of those defining moments where we wrestled with everything we believed to be true. And we were so fortunate to be surrounded by friends and family.
One of the most hope-giving experiences was during the first week when I opened my email and found a note from another mom of a 23 weeker. She sent me her blog and was there for me every step of the way. It was a game changer. I had a friend, someone who understood what it was like to endure all we were enduring. I also gained understanding of what would likely be in our future. (Many of her son’s challenges were similar to ours.) Though every micro-preemie’s story is different, reading their blog helped me to know what to anticipate and expect, which made them less scary when they popped up.
How’s Pierce doing today?
Today, Pierce is 5 years old and a whopping 45 lbs! (After months of counting in grams, I don’t think there will ever be a time where I stop sharing his weight. One thing is for sure- he isn’t small for his age, which is incredible considering his start.
In many ways, Pierce is thriving. He attends a church preschool and loves his teachers and his friends. But he has had a long and grueling path, enduring countless procedures, therapy sessions and 9 surgeries (7 of which were on his brain to treat his hydrocephalus, a secondary condition related to a brain bleed he had at birth). Pierce also has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, which affects his ability to move like his peers. I know these terms seem very scary to someone who’s never experienced them (they certainly were to us in the beginning), but if I could communicate just one thing about his diagnoses, it’d be this: they are not sum of who he is today. Rightly put, they’re simply just a small part of an incredibly intelligent, funny and determined little boy.
What is he like today? Tell us about his personality, his favorite things, and his LEAST favorite things ☺.
At five years old, one thing that is not lacking is personality. Pierce is a ham! He will talk to just about anyone (barring those in scrubs or white coats!). He loves music, especially his favorite band “Needtobreathe” and could spend countless hours belting out tunes on his karaoke machine. He recently discovered musicals after watching a local performance of “Mary Poppins.” His least favorite things would include shopping with mom and days where he doesn’t get to attend school.
What’s the best part of your day with Pierce?
He’s home with me on Fridays and I love the down time we have on those mornings when it’s just the two of us. We usually watch cartoons in our jammies and then spend the day messing around. Though I’ll have to admit, there are some days where naptime is my favorite. Ha!
Is there a “most challenging” part of your day with him? If so, what is it?
One of the most challenging things with Pierce is trying to find ways to participate in “typical” kid activities when most things are simply not wheelchair accessible. And while this doesn’t happen every day (thankfully!), it does happen on most. Fortunately he is an easy-going kid, so if something doesn’t work, we just venture to plan B.
Why did you start Pierce’s Project?
Once we were home from the NICU, I realized how instrumental other moms of micro-preemies had been in helping me through the difficult process. They were the only reason I was somewhat sane. I knew that I wanted to give back and offer that same support to another mom. And so with that desire, the dream for Pierce’s Project was born. I never imagined it would grow into what it has today.
What do you hope it becomes?
To date Pierce’s Project has raised over $100,000 with 100% of that going directly towards supporting our local NICU families. Since our start, we’ve been giving care packages to NICU families, providing support dinners in the NICU and we now even cover the parking costs for NICU families at Novant’s Hemby NICU. Today, we have a board of 11- all former NICU parents who are passionate about giving back. It’s really just incredible to see what has happened organically as other’s have joined in our efforts. While we are always looking at ways for improving, scheming up ideas on how we can best use donor money to support the local NICU families, I can honestly say that this organization has far surpassed every expectation I ever had. My biggest wish is that Pierce’s Project would continue strong by supporting local NICU families for many years to come.
How can we get involved?
The best way to help is by financial donations. We also are always in need of volunteers to help us with our support programs and events. Our annual fundraiser, Premature Oktoberfest: A Microbrew for Micropreemies is coming up on September 17th. It’s always an amazing event and this year, it’s being held at Rooftop 210 at the Epicenter. We’d love for your readers to make plans to join us! If you’d like to learn more, visit our website at www.piercesproject.com or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now for some fun Smarty questions:
Favorite spot to shop for yourself in Charlotte? Ross: Dress for Less – you have to dig, but I can always find great deals on name brand clothes, shoes and home goods. (Hint: their shoe section is where it’s at! I just picked up some Toms and Converse shoes, both for under $20!)
Best park in Charlotte? We really enjoy going to the Marion Diehl Park off Tyvola. Even though it’s a haul from Fort Mill, it’s wheelchair accessible and shaded so perfect for Pierce.
Early bird or night owl? Always a night owl, never an early bird!
Best date-night spot? We love to eat, so we’ll go just about anywhere that has good food. Our favorites include Mama Ricottas (Uptown), Legal Remedy Brewing Co (Rock Hill) and Cantina 1511 (Ballantyne). But truthfully, a lot of times this homebody’s favorite date spot is on the couch with take out, watching a movie.
Family’s favorite getaway? Since Pierce was a baby, we’ve taken yearly trips to Folly Beach. The restaurants, the beach, and Charleston- need I say more?
Chore you like the most? Is this a thing? People actually enjoy chores? I guess if I had to pick one, it’d be organizing. There’s something relaxing to this type A mama about having things in their proper place. (Now, I’m not going to say how often this actually happens.)
Chore you loathe? Folding the laundry. I can wash and dry like the best of them, but when it comes to folding and finishing the job by putting them away, I fail miserably.
One word that best describes your life right now? Busy
Finish this sentence: Everyday I hope… to love others well despite my selfishness and failures.
Thanks so much, Lindsay! I also wanted to include this video from the Pierce’s Project web site. So incredibly powerful! ~ CP