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

Finding Community in the NICU

Finding community in the NICU

The day my water broke, I was on my way to my baby shower. I was expected to get showered with presents, funny stories and enjoy my swollen baby belly for another two months. But Bree had other plans.

I woke up in a puddle, and before I knew it, I was rushing to the hospital while my husband called our host to let her know I wasn’t going to be there. I was devastated. Having a NICU baby, however, taught me many lessons, one of which became a greater gift than any onesie or diaper cake could.

Finding community in the NICU was one of the most precious gifts that I have ever received. It was an opportunity for our friends to be real, authentic, loving and supportive, and for us to accept their love and grace and be refreshed. One of my dearest friends would drive two hours to spend an afternoon on a hard couch in a NICU room while I just stared at my baby. She just let me process, breathe and be. She would often take me for a walk or out to lunch so that I could remember being a normal person again, but she’d always come back with me and just sit and talk.

We were discharged twice, both times sending us back to the NICU. During our last visit home, I had to do CPR on my baby. While the ambulance arrived, and as I was gathering my stuff, a dear friend up the road walked into my house helped me find my keys, get the car seat and diaper bag and stayed with me at the hospital until my husband arrived. These sacrificial acts of kindness imprinted themselves on my hurting heart, changing me forever.

community NICU

I soon started visiting other mommies in the NICU, checking on them, hugging them, and praying for them. The gift of community is that it is one that keeps on giving. During our second visit in the NICU, I made it my personal goal to welcome every mama that joined this “club” of unknowns, scary terms, and 24-hour bustle. I reached out and my community grew. We were there for each other, cheering on each others babies, and crying with each other when things didn’t go according to plan. Since then we have moved states, but my a piece of my heart will always be in that NICU, with those nurses, doctors, and moms that I don’t even know.

What I realize now, three years later, is that while I wanted the onesies and funny stories, God gave me something so much bigger. He showed me His grace and love for me and my family through these dear friends. And that is better than any onesie or diaper cake I can imagine.
My hope for you today is that you reach out and find community, or embrace the community you do have. It can be so tempting to isolate and let the walls cave in, but remember that it’s okay to hurt in front of others and be real about this journey that you are on.
Some great online community resources are of course Hand to Hold and the NICU Family Voice blog, but also the NICU Family Voices and NICU Family Forum Facebook pages.
Jessie Threlkeld About Jessie Threlkeld

Jessie Threlkeld is mother to Breanna, a former 32 weeker. Jessie's uneventful pregnancy came to a screeching halt due to unexplained PPROM. Due to breathing and eating complications Bree had a much longer NICU stay than anticipated with a total of three discharges from the NICU. The two struggled through the ups and downs of breastfeeding, performing CPR and learning the ropes of bringing a preemie home. Jess and her husband Nate have made it their passion to encourage and support preemie parents, and find ways to help those that want to breastfeed. Jessie is passionate about encouraging NICU moms through their journey, as well as, finding natural solutions for common preemie issues. Check out her blog for tips on surviving in the NICU and beyond.

Comments

  1. Susan Hundley says:

    Hi Jessie, Great article with wonderful advice! The only concern I have in your advice to welcome other NICU mommies is the issue our NICU had about absolute privacy. We were told the night our 26 week twins were delivered that we were to give absolute privacy to other NICU families and we were to be given this same courtesy. Even while we scrubbed in next to the same families every day, not a word was said – there was a sign right over the sink reminding us of the NICU’S strict privacy policy.

    To tell you the truth, when you have such fragile babies, as our twins were, the privacy was appreciated. We were dealing with so much, that just talking to all the medical staff, was all we could handle. I remember the wall that had pictures of previous preemies that showed them as they started life in the NICU and now as toddlers – to teens. This was a wall I avoided for months, because I didn’t know if our twins would survive. Even when we were getting released with two 7lb, healthy twins, our life was going to be one of protecting these two precious little girls and total isolation. Not your normal experience of bringing a full term baby home.

    It took the twins turning one, before I could join an on-line support group, such as this. Now, they are 4 months away from turning three and this summer has been our first “normal” summer with them – going to the park, swimming, any outing you take ful term babies to immediately.

    Just another perspective and I do not want to take away from such a thoughtful experience you offered others.

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