by Amy Carr, Helping Hand Peer Mentor
“Fortunately, not everyone knows another parent who has spent time in the NICU. Unfortunately, when you are that parent, you need someone who has been there to answer your questions and remind you that the feelings you feel are normal,” shared Desinee, a parent who was matched with a Helping Hand peer mentor from Hand to Hold. “The NICU can be a lonely place even when you have the support of friends and family like we did. You still feel alone because no one else quite understands what you are going through. Hand to Hold matched me up with someone who understood the ups and downs and who had been where I was. She’s been an amazing resource and shoulder when I’ve needed it.”
Desinee is the proud mother to Evan who was born at 31 weeks and who spent 26 days in the NICU. They were fortunate to have a relatively uneventful NICU stay and her son has thrived since coming home. I was matched with Desinee because she had a very similar experience to my own. My daughter, Ella, was born at 35 weeks almost 7 years ago. Her early birth was a complete surprise and unexpected complications led to her 10-day NICU stay.
The experience of having a child born early and their subsequent hospital stay remains with parents like us for longer than most of our friends and family realize. It takes time to work through all that and realize that the complicated “stew” of emotions NICU parents like us face are completely normal. It was a trauma, afterall! Healing takes time, but it does come.
I was so honored to be able to support Desinee during part of her NICU journey after she brought her son home. Sharing our mutual experiences and feelings was helpful for us both. Even though I didn’t know anyone who had a baby born early when my child was in the NICU, I appreciated the opportunity to lend a helping hand to a fellow mama – if nothing else to let her know that “Yes, I know exactly how you feel!”