Since her twin boys were born prematurely six weeks ago, Amanda Logan has been driving 90 minutes each way from her home in St. Mary's County to Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis.
Her boys, Anderson Seth and Andrew Scott, have spent their entire lives in the neonatal intensive care unit there, where doctors and nurses can keep a 24-hour watch on the boys' fragile health.
Usually Logan packs herself a lunch, which she eats while driving to or from the hospital. So she was happy yesterday to eat a free Mother's Day lunch for parents with babies in the neonatal intensive care unit, courtesy of Morton's The Steakhouse in Annapolis. She and other moms feasted on cheeseburgers, salad, cheesecake and chips. They also received a gift pack of Morton's grilling salts, an oven mitt and Morton's grilling tips.
"My lunch is usually peanut butter and jelly, or turkey and cheese," said Logan, who is a massage therapist. "It's not as good as this food. No cheesecake."
Her husband, Andrew, a Prince George's County policeman, sat with her in a hospital conference room. He visits their babies, who were born three months prematurely, three or four times a week.
Overall, about 15 couples and 10 hospital staff members took part in the Morton's lunch. Each meal had a retail value of about $50, according to the Annapolis Morton's manager, Chad Lipson.
The idea for the meal came from Cheryl Knauer, Morton's media representative. The restaurant wanted to do something special for Mother's Day, which is traditionally one of the chain's biggest days. Knauer suggested free meals for moms (and dads) at the hospital.
"Other moms get to celebrate by going out for dinner. Many of these moms can't go out," she said. "I wanted to help them celebrate the day as they should."
Knauer can relate to the experience. Seven years ago, her son Elijah was born with a condition that significantly slowed his growth; he spent the first eight days of his life - including Mother's Day - in the intensive care unit at St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson. He recovered and is now a normal first-grader.
The Anne Arundel Medical Center opened its remodeled neonatal intensive care unit 18 months ago. The unit has space for 26 infants; it now hosts 20, including three sets of twins and one set of triplets.
The Annapolis Morton's opened about seven months ago. Lipson said that despite the sluggish economy, which has led to declining revenue for many restaurants, the restaurant is doing well.
Also enjoying the meal were two couples who have become friends while visiting the neonatal intensive care unit almost every day: Sarah and Warren Provenson, whose daughter Samantha was born 13 weeks premature in March; and Ray and Julie Burch, whose twins, Beth and Buddy, were born 15 weeks premature in February. The two couples, especially the women, have spent as much time as they can at the hospital. The Burchs commute an hour from Charles County, while the Provensons drive 70 minutes from Jacobus, Pa.
"It's great to meet them," said Julie Burch. "I'm so grateful I've been able to meet Sarah. No one can understand like someone who's going through it."
The weeks have been taxing for the couples. Buddy recently had surgery for an intestinal infection - the procedure was done at Children's Hospital in Washington, so the Burchs now must travel to two hospitals. Samantha, too, has had surgery, for a problem with a blood vessel near her heart.
"It's been stressful," said Julie Burch, who works in human resources for the Department of Commerce in Washington.
The plummeting economy has had a silver lining for the Provensons: Warren installs appliances and shelves for new houses. With the real estate market in shambles, business has been slow in recent months, giving him ample time to visit his twins.
"I'm here at noon every day," he said. "It's not good, but it's been good for this situation."
This was the first Mother's Day for Julie Burch. To commemorate the occasion, Sarah Provenson, who has a 4-year-old son, surprised her with a framed picture of Beth, with room to add a photo of Buddy later.
"Thank you - this is gonna make me cry," said Julie Burch, gazing at the snapshot of her tiny, sleeping daughter.