Whether your baby was in the NICU for 2 days or 200, the result of having a birth experience begin in the midst of noisy beeping machines, a multitude of doctors and nurses, and the palpable fear that persistently swirls in the NICU air, the impact can have long-lasting effects on us as parents. The problem is, we’re so busy taking care of our new little ones, we have no time to recognize and acknowledge how significant our baby’s birth has been on our emotional state. We’re simply trying to survive this crazy world that’s suddenly been thrust upon us and hoping and praying the same holds true for our babies.
As our babies heal and grow and eventually arrive at home, it seems there is even less time to explore our emotional state, for now our little one is under our care alone. The concept of taking time for ourselves is nearly laughable. Sit down? Reflect upon how I’m feeling? Yeah right.
But here’s the deal. At some point we do have to sit down and reflect upon our thoughts, feelings, and emotions, because if we don’t, they just breed and fester way down deep in the dark recesses where we’ve tucked them away. And by bringing our buried fears, hopes, dreams, disappointments and truths to the light, we are in fact helping our child to heal and grow as well. A healthy, whole parent is one of the greatest gifts we can offer to our children.
So where do I begin?
Well, there are many avenues and approaches to get at those hidden emotions, but for me, the way in is through writing. Now if you just rolled your eyes and thought about clicking on to another webpage, hang on. For some of us, the idea of writing about our experience (or any experience) is a non-starter. But I’m not talking about writing a book. Or even a paragraph, if that’s not your thing. A scrap of paper and a broken crayon will suffice. As will a list. A simple list of the first words that pop into your mind when you think back on the day of your baby’s birth. And don’t think too much. Just jot down whatever pops in your mind. There are no right or wrong answers. Honor whatever comes up. And as you write your list, or paragraph, or page, remember to check that you’re not holding your breath. Ahhhh…
And there it is. The first step. And it probably took just a minute or two. And maybe you even notice a little space opened up inside you; a little more room to take in an extra breath or two.
For some of us, we might be ready to say thanks, that’ll do and I’m outta here. No problem. You’re free to go. Just remember, check in with yourself from time to time and maybe even give that exercise a try again if it feels right.
For the rest of you who enjoyed that simple writing exercise, maybe you’re ready for more. If so, I’ll leave you with a list of some of my favorite writing exercises and hope they help you find your way in and some of your emotions find their way out.
1.) I love to use this simple exercise as a writing warm-up. In a notebook or on a piece of paper, draw a large heart. Now write down everything you are thinking and feeling at this very moment inside the heart. “List everything you are holding in your heart today without condemning or hiding any of it. Include everything. It is all part of who you are at this moment.” From With Pen in Hand, by Henriette Anne Klauser.
2.) This is one of my all time favorite exercises, and I use it repeatedly with my writing classes.With a notebook and pen or pencil in hand, sit back against a couch or chair and imagine you are actually leaning back against a big tree. Close your eyes and take in a few breathes. Now just listen. There is a Storyteller sitting on the other side of the tree. Listen to what that Storyteller has to say and begin writing that story down. Don’t question what you’re hearing, just write. (And breathe!) Adapted from Julia Cameron’s book The Right to Write.
3.) I wholeheartedly believe in recreating my truth; that by imagining a set of circumstances differently than they actually were, it is possible to bring in healing. Choose an event, maybe your baby’s birth, or a different event if you’re not ready for that one, and remember the details that actually occurred and then imagine the details as you wished they had occurred. Write those new details down.
4.) Write your child (spouse, friend, parent) a letter and detail all of your “somedays.” I can’t wait for the day when we…walk together on the beach…share drippy chocolate ice cream cones on a hot summer day…fly kites at the park. What are your somedays?
Do you have a favorite writing exercise you’d like to share?