Hand to Hold's Official Blog: Written by Parents for Parents
Kara Wahlin

About Kara Wahlin

Kara (CA) is a marriage and family therapist/art therapist located in southern California. Since the preterm birth of her twin sons Elliott and William at 26 weeks and the loss of William at six days old, she's made it her mission to try and use her skills as a therapist to reach out to help, empower, and nurture other families going through the NICU experience. She loves art, exploring, literature, music and doing wild and wooly projects with her son and husband. You can learn more about her on her website, NICUHealing, as well as her personal website. You can follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

Rewriting the Story of a Partnership After Crisis: NICU Healing

The day after my son William died, my husband and I went to the hospital to see his twin Elliott in the NICU. We had agreed that being near Elliott would be the only thing that would feel ok that day. We were both mostly silent. I remember feeling very otherworldly, very distant from the reality that was spinning, beeping, screaming around us, very distant from John. Everything seemed to have a cold fog around it, embodying the environment. There was this watery, grey feeling like nothing was really there, including me. The only comfort was staring at sweet Elliott under the bili lights, waiting for the quick moments when the nurses would do his cares and we would briefly be able to look into each other’s eyes (or at least I could gaze into his).

The nurse practitioner who was on shift that day came over to John and I, and related how sorry she was about William’s passing. With tears in her eyes, she told us that Elliott, so far, was doing well for his gestational age. And then she turned to us, making eye contact. She told us that she believed we would make it through this together, that our relationship was strong, that even though many families don’t make it through in one piece, she thought we would be one of the few to make it. [Read more]

Speaking to the Unspeakable: Lifting the Stigma Around Mental Health After the NICU

When my surviving son was finally discharged from the NICU, he cried for about three months straight. Literally. My husband and I called it the daily “witching hour”, though it was hardly an hour. It lasted on average from 3-8pm daily (in addition to other fussy moments). We researched and researched ways of soothing him. We tried driving, swaddling, babywearing, swinging, reflux meds, playing music (The Velvet Underground and Nico was his favorite album), singing, dancing, jumping around holding him on our shoulder, rubbing his back, going outside, and all kinds of folkloric colic remedies that came to no particularly different outcomes. I was exhausted, deflated, and my feelings of guilt and shame with preterm birth were compounded by the idea that now that I was finally able to be Elliott’s sole provider as a newly stay-at-home mom, I was failing even at that. [Read more]

You Are Not Alone: Fostering Prematurity Awareness Around the Globe

In meeting many NICU parents, I’ve gathered that not one of us would wish the NICU experience on anyone after having gone through it. It is terrifying and so destabilizing on multiple levels that one wouldn’t wish it on their worst enemy. Can you imagine, though, what it would be like if your baby had […]

Embracing Posttraumatic Growth: Is Growth Possible After Trauma?

After the NICU, as we assessed what still stood around us, what hadn’t changed dramatically or crumbled in our lives, I wondered how the experience would affect my story, our story, the story of our family. Did this trauma mean that we would become a sad story? Our lives a tragedy? Would our lives forever be shifted into the shadow of grief? [Read more]

Learning the Language of Grief: Telling a Twinless Twin About Their Twin

My son woke up tonight from a nightmare. He told me his best friend was dead. As a parent of a twinless twin, the symbolism was very difficult for me. A best friend. Dead. Could the image in his nightmare have been his brother? How do you go about telling a little boy that there […]