Finding hope in the NICU was a challenging task for me. There were no pictures with stories of NICU graduates lining the walls. There were mostly just statistics that wove a tale of despair. The doctors and nurses were reluctant to offer any hope, perhaps themselves being fearful of the outcome. Nearly all my questions were answered with the same four words – “Every preemie is different.” And so I was left floundering, walking through each day in a constant state of worry and dread and wishing I had a crystal ball that would tell me what the future had in store. I longed to connect with other parents who had walked this road before me, but unfortunately I never found that kind of support during our NICU stay.
It wasn’t long after we were discharged that our NICU started hosting parent socials. I quickly expressed interest in attending these gatherings because I was desperate to start giving back in any way I could. Furthermore, I remembered my own desire to talk with graduate parents and was eager to provide a “hopeful” resource. While my motivation was to help other moms and dads I almost instantly found that my own heart began to heal. I saw a piece of myself reflected in each of the parents in attendance. I recognized their forced smiles, and saw in their weary eyes the pain, heartache, and fear, that only another NICU parent knows. Our stories, simultaneously so different and yet so much the same, connected us. We talked easily. There was no need for explaining the medical terms because we were all familiar. My message to these parents was filled with encouragement and understanding and an immense amount of compassion. And I realized that my words were like little bandages for the wounds I was carrying from my own NICU journey. Was it possible that I was telling these parents what I had so longed to hear?
Recently, we were concluding one of our meetings. A young father came over to me with a huge smile. His wife had just delivered their baby at 25 weeks gestation. “Thank you.” he said to me. “You have given me some hope. I am so happy to know that my baby has a chance. Thank you for coming in and sharing with us. God bless you.” I don’t know their story. I’m not certain if their baby survived. But I do know that for a moment, I gave another parent some hope. It has been a blessing and an honor to give back to the preemie parent community and I look forward to volunteering in this capacity for many years.
How Can You Give Back?
If you’re interested in giving back, consider volunteering as a parent mentor, or in many other ways, through Hand to Hold.