Oftentimes the emotional impact of a NICU stay can surface weeks, months or even years later after your baby is discharged. Emotions can quickly turn from joy and gratitude to anger and resentment and back again. It’s important for parents and caregivers of medically fragile children to recognize when the emotional burden has become too much and that they may need to seek professional help. Yet stigmas remain. To help mitigate any negative attitudes towards mental health treatment, we’re sharing stories from brave parents in our community, telling us how and why they knew it was time to seek professional help and what they hoped to gain from counseling and therapy.
“I wish there was more support for new moms.”
I decided I needed therapy when, after being told I needed routine surgery to get rid of a kidney stone, I had a complete mental breakdown in the doctor’s office. I realized I had PTSD. I had no idea what the next trigger would be, when it would be or if my response would be worse. I don’t want that for myself or for my daughter.
After my daughter was born, it took four days for a therapist to come see me, even though I was experiencing anxiety and had requested support. I refused to sleep because I had fears of dying. When I did see someone, they only asked me if I had any thoughts of hurting my baby or what would I do to her if I did. There was zero to little concern for my mental well being.
I’m working on how to best manage all of this postpartum trauma and anxiety. Right now I am dealing with guilt. My daughter I feel is a preemie because I had an autoimmune condition that made me sick. I’m learning to realize my disease made me sick, but I did not cause my daughter to be a preemie. It’s all hard and there is a lot of work ahead. I wish there was just more support for new moms.
“Honesty is necessary in order to get the true help you need.”
I knew I needed to seek help when it got to the point where no life at all started to seem better than the life I had. It’s always taboo to feel that way let alone talk about it. Yet in order to get the true help you need honesty is necessary.
My goals in therapy were to learn to accept my birth journey, and to replace negative thinking with positivity. Those thoughts had been controlling every aspect of my life.
“I needed to get some of myself back.”
Leigh Ann’s story
I started thinking about seeking therapy not long after my twins turned nine. One of them had been diagnosed with ADHD, and we were dealing with other issues from comprehension to behavioral skills, and I realized – or feared – that we may not ever truly leave prematurity behind us. I still harbored feelings of guilt about their premature birth and resentment of others who – in my eyes – had it easier. In addition, as my kids aged, I found myself needing to figure out who I was outside of being a mom. I needed to get some of myself back.
I distinctly remember looking for opportunities to unload on anyone who would listen. At dinner one evening, two of my girlfriends admitted to seeing a therapist, so I asked them, “How did you know it was time to seek therapy?” Realizing that people I knew personally were also fighting their own battles helped eradicate the personal stigma I was dealing with and was a catalyst to me seeking help for myself. I no longer felt alone, and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
“This was a bigger issue than we had struggled with in the past.”
We started therapy together pretty quickly after the loss of our daughter, mostly because we knew it was the “right” thing to do. We both have done individual therapy off and on throughout our adult life, and I think we both just knew this was a bigger issue than we had struggled with in the past.
The divorce rates are ridiculously high for parents that have lost a child. I want to know that we are doing everything we can to protect our relationship and support each other in our individual grief. I wanted the loss of our daughter to be something that bound us closer together, not something that would become a wedge between us.
It’s important to remember that we are each going to process and experience our grief differently. We need to give each other space and permission for the other to have different styles. I often found myself questioning if my husband was really grieving because I was grieving in a more visible manner. It has been very healing to hear him vocalize his grief in our sessions and truly love him more.
LISTEN NOW: NICU LOVE & LOSS, A PODCAST DESIGNED TO SUPPORT FAMILIES ON THE DIFFICULT JOURNEY AFTER LOSING A CHILD.
We hope these stories give insight into how and when others knew it was time to seek the help of a therapist or professional counselor. You are not alone, and you deserve to seek the appropriate help in managing your emotions and trauma.