After the birth of my daughter at 32 weeks pregnant via an emergency C-section, I found myself in complete survival mode. My only focus was getting to the hospital twice a day and pumping as much as I could for her. I literally could not think about anything else.
When my husband first mentioned he had seen a flyer for Hand to Hold in the NICU, I brushed it off. I met him with a lack of enthusiasm when he said he had reached out on my behalf for a peer mentor. I loved him for it, but I couldn’t talk to one more person.
I ignored the first contact email, and then the first text. I didn’t have it in me to explain what Lucia was going through. I didn’t want to explain what an episode was or why she was on a CPAP and why she had a feeding tube in her stomach. I couldn’t bring myself to talk about the fears and the guilt, or the loneliness and devastation, or the tears I cried as I pumped at home without my baby.
But then the second text came through, and I decided to write back. Within moments, Krystle, a NICU parent herself, connected with me in a way I hadn’t been able to connect with anyone else through the entire experience. She told me that her little one had been on a CPAP. In that instant, I knew there was an unstated understanding between us that only another NICU mom would get.
For the first time since we were told our daughter would be taken to the NICU, I felt seen.
In my own experience, the journey of being a NICU parent is lonely. While I wanted the best care and focus to be on my baby, I also needed care and support. Having a mentor made me feel sane in the moments I thought I was losing my mind, and it kept my focus on the biggest goal we had as a new family: bringing baby home.
In the year that I’ve been connected with Krystle, we have chatted back and forth from everything from speech delays to birthday parties. We’ve laughed at memes together and shared concerns. As moms of NICU graduates, we understand one another in a way that no one else fully does. As friends, we are just two moms to two incredible kids just trying to figure it out like everyone else.
Which is why I recently decided it was time for me to train to be a mentor. I still in many ways feel like the mentee – fears and unknowns and challenges still present themselves daily. But now I can connect with another parent and create a safe space for them. I’ve gone through the experience, and we came out the other side. And so will so many other families facing a similar experience.
To any parent facing the NICU, you are not alone. Those first days and moments are scary. But there is an entire village waiting to support you and to listen to your story. And if you aren’t ready to talk, that’s okay too. Whatever way you need support, the incredible team at a Hand to Hold will work selflessly to try to meet your needs.