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Writer Interrupted, A Very Personal Story

As a writer, we know that perspective is everything. We build our character's lives out of drama, tragedy, and hope. When those issues become our own, we really learn about perspective. My friend Van's very personal story will offer a little perspective for those of you who might be feeling the pressures of life. Van is an accomplished writer, a father, and a very generous and kind friend. It's my pleasure to introduce to you author Van Heerling.

Last year my life was put on pause. No writing, no going out to eat with friends, no—you name it.

My son, Ashton was born a micropreemie. He weighed in at a whooping one pound ten ounces. He is doing very well now, and is on the other side of his first year.

My wife and I knew that he was going to be small. Our doctors told us that he would be around two and a half pounds. You can imagine our distress when we were told just how small he’d turned out to be.

Ashton spent eighty days in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). We’d go to the hospital either in the morning before work or after work. Many times we couldn’t stand it and had to be there in the morning and the evening. It just didn’t feel “right” being home without him.

During our visits we’d ask him how he was doing and if he was being treated well and if he had made any friends. There were as many as six other preemies to a room and several nurses. I know that it sounds silly to do this, but it helped to sooth us as parents and build an even a stronger bond between the three of us. Whenever we would leave we would be sure to tell him when we were coming back. “Okay Ashton, we’re going home now but we will be back tomorrow at eight.” It isn’t the message per se that counts. It is the touch and the love that communicates through the words that matter.

Something very interesting was happening. He was putting on weight and all of the doctors concerns about potential heart problems and possible brain bleeds fell away. Doctor’s orders were now: “grow little man, grow!” We praised him all the way along as he continued to make progress. To say there weren’t some very difficult times would be untrue. Yes there were. The first time my wife held him his heartbeat dropped and it was somewhat serious. Over time we had a lot of those types of scares, but we just kept chugging forward.

We were always positive. Not overly so, or in an obnoxious way, but in a genuine way. There is no sense in being tremendously worried or crying your eyes out everyday. Not to get too spiritual about all this, but I felt if I were to fully express my worry it would just bring “bad vibes” to the situation. I did however express my concerns with my wife and our doctors, but only when we weren’t around him. We found that being calm and in good spirits, seemed to help put our nurses at ease so that they could do their job. More than once we found out that some nurses cheered when they found out they would be taking care of our boy for their shift, mainly because we as the parents we so inviting.

To say that if you think good thoughts only good things happen is not what I am saying. It was the hospital staff with their wonderfully competent nurses and doctors that pulled our boy from the brink.

I only wish to point out that being worried to the point of distraction to the child, nurses and doctors may not be in the best interest for all parties concerned including the parents. Save all the negativity for when you get home if it truly needs expression at all.

With the celebration of Ashton’s first birthday he is about fourteen pounds and seems like a 

very happy little baby. He can scoot like crazy. He is still well under weight but it is of little concern. He has plenty of time to catch up.

It looks like he will be a reader because whenever he gets too upset I plunk down a couple books in front of him and he just digs right in. He’s my little page-turner.

If you have had a similar experience to mine, I would like to hear about it. Mainly I would be curious as to how you were able to cope with the situation. Perhaps your comments will help someone in the future.

Oh, and I’m writing again.


Van lives in Burbank, California with the lingering spirit of Redford—his adopted morbidly obese cat, which was more of a paperweight than a feisty feline, his wife and boy and their very alive kitty—Abigail.

Van always enjoys hearing from his readers. If you wish to send your comments you may do so at

Follow Van

Van's website:


Twitter@vanheerlingTwitter handle: 



When our son was born we were

November 20, 2012 by Eric S, 2 years 27 weeks ago
Comment id: 36599

When our son was born we were told all was well. He was our first child and all of the customary fretting accompanied his arrival, so after what was a very long labor my wife and I were relieved and basking in the pure joy that a newborn brings. Matthew's first day went along swimmingly, alternating between my wife's arms or mine, and then back to the nursery when the staff pried him away from us. 

I was forced to return to work the following day with what turned out to be a false sense that all was proceeding normally. I received a call around midday from my wife; she was upset, near frantic. She informed me that the hospital staff had moved Matthew to the NICU because when he became agitated he lost his color and turned a dusky shade. I raced to the hospital only to enter his new room and witness our baby, our angel, hooked up to more wires, hoses, and electrodes than an infant should have space on his body for. I put on the bravest face I could muster even as I could feel my heart sink and the worry overcame my thoughts. It was one of the moments in life that remains frozen in memory; I still picture the room, my wife, and Matthew as if it were yesterday. The tests were many, the poking and prodding of our boy seeming went on without end. My wife and I resolved that if we could just take him home then we could take care of his every need. 

After about a week we got our wish as the battery of tests could find nothing majorly wrong with our son. We were instructed to add cereal to his diet and to keep his crib elevated on one end to combat reflux. A week of pure hell ended with the determination that our son had indigestion, albeit an aggressive variety.  Despite the fact that it has been fourteen years, the memories of that time still evoke an emotional response. I don't believe there is anything more upsetting in this world than a threat to one's child.

Thank you for sharing your story, Mr. Heerling. Although our ordeal wasn't as lenghty as yours I certainly echo your sentiments on staying positive and strong in the face of such adversity. It would have done us no good to have thought the worst, and I do believe positive feelings can affect those around you. 

I haven't had this

November 15, 2012 by AR Silverberry, 2 years 27 weeks ago
Comment id: 36153

I haven't had this experience, Van, but I have seen how being positive can affect someone's health. Babies in particular are very senstive to touch. Many years ago, I believe it was in the 30's, the medical profession believed that when babies were sick, you needed to keep them in isolation so they didn't spread or catch diseases. The couldn't figure out why the babies weren't getting better. It seems incredible from our vantage point now, but someone finally realized that the babies needed to held and talked to. No surprise, they responded by growing and getting better.

Thanks so much for sharing this inspiring story.

And glad you're back to writing!

Best  Wishes,


Writing as AR Silverberry

Thank you Peter. Couldn't

November 16, 2012 by Vanheerling, 2 years 27 weeks ago
Comment id: 36186

Thank you Peter. Couldn't agree more.

  My girls weren't born

November 15, 2012 by SuzanTisdale, 2 years 27 weeks ago
Comment id: 36143


My girls weren't born early, they were just born 'sick'. Both had to have open-heart surgery when they were babies. My oldest also had to have kidney surgery when she was in kindergarten, and she fought childhood epilepsy for 4 and half years. To say our lives were ‘stressful’ those first ten years would be a huge understatement!

My youngest daughter was the one we struggled and fought for the most. We almost lost her on more than one occasion. She nearly died again three times during her surgery.

We were given the worst news possible with her. The doctors told us she her growth would be stunted and she would be learning impaired. She was in a coma for three days. They did their best to prepare us for the worst.

That was a little over 23 years ago. She is 5’11”, was national honor roll all through high school, and on the dean’s list in college. She is married to a wonderful man and her life is perfect. ;o) So, the doctors don’t always know. Or maybe because I didn’t have a clue what I was doing and I didn’t treat her any differently than her older sister, that might have had something to do with it. I think it all boils down to divine intervention. ;o)

I have lots of funny stories I could share, but there isn’t enough room here! ;o) Suffice it to say life was hectic, stressful, scary-as-hell sometimes. But I learned early that if I didn’t laugh, I’d cry and lose my mind.

I had a beautiful son when my youngest was 10. The first time he got sick, I absolutely PANICKED! Why? Because when the girls were little, whenever they got sick they were immediately in the hospital. I had trained, wonderful nurses 24/7 to help out. With my son? Totally lost. But I survived. I guess that is all you can hope for sometimes, is mere survival. There are times when it isn’t ‘one day at a time’ but one minute at a time.

My children are my biggest blessings in life. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t think twice about it. All those scary times helped make me who I am. ;o) It is true when I say, “I’m a mom, you can’t scare me!”

Enjoy that baby of yours. It goes by so fast. You’ll blink and he’s in kindergarten. Blink again and its his first homecoming dance. Blink yet again, and you’re helping him unpack in his dorm room. Blinking sucks sometimes!

Best wishes to you all.



Suzan thank you for sharing

November 16, 2012 by Vanheerling, 2 years 27 weeks ago
Comment id: 36187

Suzan thank you for sharing your story. So happy to hear that it turned out so well. I love your quote, "I'm a mom, you can't scare me." That's gold. And in your case I see that it is a perfect fit. :) 

Melissa, Thank you so much

November 15, 2012 by Vanheerling, 2 years 28 weeks ago
Comment id: 36129


Thank you so much for allowing me to share this story.