When NICU families talk about what helped get them through their NICU stay, the transition to home, and the sometimes tumultuous months that can follow, it’s peer support in the NICU – support from other parents who have been down a similar road – that often has the biggest impact.
According to the National Perinatal Association, peer support can offer comfort that family and friends may not be able to provide, provide a safe environment to share feelings, empower parents to problem-solve and become advocates for their families and themselves, help parents feel less alone, increase acceptance of difficult situations, and offer important resources for coping.
Stories of real mentor/mentee relationships show the real impact of peer support.
Jack Scott’s twins, Angelina and Leo, were born at 34.5 weeks weighing just 3 pounds, 1 ounce and 4 pounds 15 ounces, respectively. During their NICU stay, Jack submitted a request for support to help him through the overwhelming stress of having two NICU babies. Aside from concerns for the health and safety of his children, Jack struggled with the burnout of splitting time with his wife in the NICU due to COVID-19 visitation restrictions. He experienced sadness and fear about a journey he and his wife never expected to take.
Jack was matched with long-time peer mentor Andrea. Andrea originally sought support from Hand to Hold after the traumatic pregnancy and birth of her twin daughters. Now a peer mentor herself, Andrea has provided guidance and support for several NICU families who are in similar situations.
Having had her own peer mentor and then mentoring many families since, Andrea knows the power of peer support. “I feel truly honored to be a peer mentor with Hand to Hold. I never take for granted the power of peer connection. It has been a true privilege to connect with other parents during these most vulnerable moments to offer support, understanding, and encouragement. Navigating the NICU and preemies is no easy experience. I have found it creates a bond that transcends location, age, and gender. I’m so proud of all the families I have worked with and carry a space for each in my heart.”
“Without the amazing NICU staff we would not be here today,” said Jack. “But Hand to Hold and my mentor, Andrea, have been incredible for me and my family during these trying times. Let this serve as inspiration and hope for those who are struggling with premature babies.”