Raising Hand to Hold from infancy has proven to have many similarities to my family’s NICU journey. While the experience of birthing a non-profit has taught me that I am much stronger and more resilient than I ever thought possible, the day to day challenges can seem insurmountable at times, and the emotional and physical demands can quickly take their toll.
While I am excited to take a short vacation with my family this month, I feel guilty for stepping away from my responsibilities and commitments – similar feelings to those I experienced when I took breaks from holding vigil at my son’s bedside years ago. From doctors to nurses, family and friends, everyone encouraged me to leave the NICU for short breaks to rest and recharge. But the fear of not being there should something go wrong and the anxiety of missing an opportunity to hold my tiny baby or change his diaper kept me riveted to that hard, straight-back stool at his bedside.
The instructions flight attendants always tell us “Please put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others” is important even in non-emergency situations! When I would allow myself to leave the NICU for lunch with a friend or sneak in a nap before heading back to the NICU for an evening feeding, I would feel more hopeful and in turn – less stressed and overwhelmed.
On those rare occasions that I enjoyed a break from the NICU, I knew my son Jackson and later my daughter Lauren were being loved and cared for by their amazing NICU teams. And I am certain Hand to Hold will continue to thrive in my absence because of the amazing staff that dedicates their time and talents to advancing our mission to assist more NICU families every day.
Not only am I looking forward to stepping away from technology, plugging into my family and catching the glimpse of some beautiful sunsets (and hopefully very few sunrises), but also I am excited to experience a renewed passion for advancing our agenda to create more support and education for NICU families like my own, which always follows a much needed break. Self-care really does make a difference and not just in the NICU.
My best wishes to you this summer. From enjoying delicious dinners with your friends and watching your children frolic in the summer sun to long evening strolls with your special someone, I hope you find many opportunities to rest and recharge!