The Value of Empathy and the Me Too Factor

January 1, 2016

Hand to Hold happy new year

Every January I find myself in a state of disbelief that time is forcing us to get accustomed to yet another calendar year. Didn’t I just get used to writing “2015” on everything? But that’s the thing about time. It doesn’t stop.

As I reflect on 2015 and look forward to 2016, I feel anticipation and just a little anxiety. Taking on this role of Hand to Hold’s Online Community Coordinator and Lead Blogger for Preemie Babies 101 has been eye-opening. See, our 5-week NICU experience was quite uneventful. Once my 31-week twins were out of the woods in those first few scary days, our neonatologist referred to them as “boring.” And boring was good.

My fellow blog contributors and the members of our Preemie Babies 101 community have not always been so fortunate. Some have delivered micro preemies at an unfathomable gestation, sometimes having to fight for their right to live. Others are still struggling with the effects of prematurity in the form of developmental delays or learning disabilities. And still others have shared their stories living with grief after a tragic loss

Learning about these experiences has left me speechless and in awe of the strength of a preemie parent. There is pain. There is heartache. There is frustration. But most of all, there is strength.

preemie twins empathy occupational therapy NICU lifeIn my personal experience, I thought we had left the NICU behind us, but as many of you know, that rarely happens. Events of this past summer made it clear that my girls – now 7 years old – were suffering from a few developmental delays of their own, things that were never really obvious when they were toddlers and preschoolers. We discovered that of my girls is a sensory seeker, which pretty much made the last 7 years fall into place for me. All the touching and grabbing! Meanwhile, in school, we’re discovering attention deficits in some areas. We’re heading own the road of sleep studies (one twin has gigantic tonsils) and possible ADD/ADHD evaluations.

When asked if these issues were likely a product of their prematurity, my pediatrician couldn’t say for sure. But my money’s on “probably so.” It all takes so much time, and I can’t even predict just yet what will come from all of this.

While it’s left me frustrated and a little angry that I can’t shake that part of our life, I’m grateful that working with Hand to Hold gives me the opportunity to tune in to the preemie parent community. It’s so easy for us to feel isolated and alone, but the communities formed through Hand to Hold, Preemie Babies 101, and Life After NICU make each of us feel less so.

It’s called the “Me Too” factor, otherwise known as empathy. There is almost always someone who is dealing with or has dealt with the same or something similar.

Each of our stories has an accompanying “me too.” When I first wrote the story of my girls’ red flags, I was nervous to share. But the overwhelming response made me realize that there were more people who related than I realized. Each and every one of those “me too’s” made me feel less alone.

If you haven’t yet found your “me too,” I urge you to join our communities on Facebook and reach out for support through Hand to Hold, where we can set you up with a peer mentor who can guide you through a difficult time. Parents who feel they are ready to take it a step further can even sign up to be one of our trained, volunteer Helping Hands, or join our other volunteer efforts, letting another struggling parent know, “Me too…I know what you’re going through.”

As for right now, I’m wishing you all love and light and plenty of “me too’s” in 2016.