Healing from the trauma of a NICU experience is a process. Contrary to popular opinion, you are not “all better” the moment your child is discharged from the hospital. Likely, the NICU was such a whirlwind, you never had a chance to grieve the pregnancy and birth you thought you would have, not to mention the homecoming of which you had always dreamed. Instead, you spent days/weeks/months at the bedside of your infant, watching them struggle for life and then you came home to a need to isolate yourself from germs and more follow-up appointments than you ever thought possible. Being a NICU parent is HARD. And, no one will ever understand what you’ve been through like another NICU parent.
While we were in the NICU, I never had the opportunity to meet another graduate parent, someone who understood what I had been through, and I desperately craved that experience. I wanted to talk to someone else who had been there, just like me, and had been able to take their baby home. Our little guy had such a rough go that I desperately wanted to hear a success story – to know that it does get better. Our NICU did not encourage conversations between patient families, and was not favorably arranged for getting to know each other.
We had a really rough ride during our 4-month NICU stay, but we got through it, and we were lucky enough to be able to take him home. Though we never lost hope, it was difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel on most days in the NICU. Even though I had the support of my husband and family and friends, I still felt very alone. So, I decided I wanted to give back in some way… I wanted to help other NICU parents realize that they will get through it. I wanted to help give them hope.
When Connor was about 9-10 months old, I found myself needing more. Connor was stronger and thriving, and we decided we were up for serving on the Parent Advisory Committee at the hospital where he was born. We rotated with other graduate families, and twice per month a meeting was held in the cafeteria where current NICU families could come and meet us and see for themselves that it does get better. This is ultimately how Kelly, Gena, and I all met each other.
Going back to the hospital and trying to offer some hope to other NICU families has done my heart so much good! Yes, it’s been emotionally difficult sometimes, and it can conjure up sad memories, but in the end, volunteering and giving of myself and our resources has been my saving grace. Volunteering pulled me out of my funk, and helped me to find ME again.
Kelly, Gena, and I wanted to give back even more… and that’s why Life after NICU is here today. We want others to know that they are not alone, and that they will get through it.
There are SO MANY wonderful organizations out there, desperately wanting to help NICU babies and their families. Rather than only mentioning it on Facebook, we thought we’d highlight one group a month here on our site. We’ll give them the opportunity to share their story, and let us know ways we all can help. There might be local events near you, or ways you can help fund raise or spread word of their cause, or simply offer you the opportunity to donate money. Did you know that studies have shown that helping others can improve your own physical health and mental well-being?
Stay tuned for our first Give Back feature…
If you are part of a non-profit organization, and would like to be featured here on Life after NICU, please contact us.