If you’re a parent – or have ever spent any amount of time with children, like, ever – you know that they are the most rewarding – and most challenging – tiny creatures to ever grace our presence.
Thankfully, those of us who have exercised our Third Option have had some of the unimaginable pressure of ‘having it all’ alleviated with its inherently flexible, accommodating family-first philosophy.
But never does this prove more critical than when you’re the working parent of an infant facing serious, life-threatening health issues. We recently sat down with such a parent, our own Laina Moore, to learn more about her son, Nolan, and the role BELAY and The Third Option played in her ability to be present in her family’s greatest times of need.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with us – I’m sure carving out ‘spare’ time takes an act of Congress for you. So tell me – what struggles were you facing – both personally or professionally that brought us together today?
“In May 2018, my son, Nolan, was born with two congenital defects that were undiagnosed until his birth and after.
“When he was born, we noticed he had a very small right ear with no ear canal, known as Microtia and Atresia. He will have reconstructive surgery at age four, though he does have full hearing in his left ear and severe hearing loss on his microtia side so he has a hearing aid that he wears from time to time.
“By week three of life, Nolan was considered ‘failure to thrive’ – hardly drinking bottles and had extreme labored breathing. It was then that we met with a cardiologist and found that Nolan had two large holes in his heart, known as atrial septal defects (ASDs) and ventricular septal defects (VSDs).
“At six months, he had open-heart surgery at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Egleston, handing our infant to strangers to perform a life-saving operation. Post-surgery was hard for our sweet boy as his heart didn’t respond well to surgery, performing well below normal.
“In December, Nolan started on heart-failure medication and we even had conversations about transplants. His team monitored him closely. By his April appointment, Nolan’s heart function had increased so much that his doctors began to wean him off his failure medications.
“We go back in August for an echocardiogram to see how his heart is doing after four months, the longest we’ve ever gone between appointments.”
What a harrowing first year of life but thankfully, it seems that his incredible story has only just begun. So throughout all this, how did BELAY and its leadership help you feel supported?
“From day one of Nolan’s life, we felt supported! BELAY provided us meals for one full month, with each team member signing up for a day, and Pay It Forward (an internal committee dedicated to listening for opportunities for the company to support clients, contractors, and corporate team members. Every dollar donated is used to bless others.) helped us chip away at our mountain of medical debt. We had more people praying for us than we ever thought possible.
“When it came time for me to return to work, I got to live The Third Option.
“I got to work full-time and be there for my son. I got to make every appointment without missing a meeting. I got to fight for my son without having to fight for my job.
“It is not lost on me that without BELAY, I wouldn’t have been able to do all that we did this last year. I am forever grateful.”
It really does take a village, doesn’t it? How did that support shape your experience?
“I am not the same person I was before Nolan was born. I have grown so much and see what is truly important in life.
“BELAY has been a huge part of our journey for so long – six years in December – that it feels like an extension of us. And their support can only be described as Godsent. I’m not sure where we would be in our journey without the team members and leaders or – as we call them – our friends.
Is there a specific moment or time that stands out when you reflect on how those ‘friends’ supported you and your family?
“Absolutely. Nolan’s surgery date was moved three times. The final time it [was moved] broke me. We had every bag packed and were ready to go when we found out it was being pushed back by a full week. I called Tricia, our COO and my boss, who was with CEOs Bryan, Shannon and other leaders at a retreat. She cried with me.
“Then, within 20 minutes, I got a text from every leader in the room. They prayed over our family as a group, and each person expressed their disappointment for us. Bryan’s assistant reached out to me and said, ‘We have dinner being delivered to your house at 5 p.m. We love you.”
“My husband and I both cried tears of gratitude that day.
“The next week, we had an all-BELAY team call days before Nolan’s surgery – and interestingly, on Microtia Awareness Day for which the designated color is blue. When I got on the call, every team member was dressed in blue and/or holding up a card with words of encouragement.
“It was the most amazing feeling. I have never felt so supported by a group of people.”
OOF. It just got super dusty in here all of a sudden. There’s really nothing quite like community, is there? How did their trusting leadership and culture affect the way you approached your responsibilities?
“I am able to approach my responsibilities with confidence knowing that I believe in each leader and decision being made. It makes work not feel like work when you get to live out a purposeful mission each day.
“BELAY has the most amazing group of people I have ever seen. There is no doubt we couldn’t have done this last year without them.
“Each person serves in a unique way and brings something different to the table as we march toward one goal, and supporting each other through each season of life.”
What do you think contributes to that strong sense of workplace community and culture in spite of everyone working remotely
“Easy – intentionality.
“Each internal call we have is via a Zoom video call. We have BELAY buddies every month where you’re matched with someone new. People have video meetings, coffee, and lunches. And we’re encouraged to meet face-to-face as needed.
“It is truly the best balance of work and family.”
Last but most importantly: How is Nolan today?
“While Nolan is delayed and working hard in physical, occupational and feeding therapy, we are thankful each day that he is with us.
“We recently celebrated his first birthday and couldn’t be more thrilled to reach that milestone. He is the strongest person that I know. He is a fighter; he is a warrior.”