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

{Professional Insight} A Journalist Shares Her Take on Writing as Therapy

Ball, AndreaYou never forget the day your preemie was born.

You probably didn’t expect it. You definitely didn’t want it. And, if you’re like me, it led to many miserable days amid beeping machines, whimpering babies and occasional emergency procedures that made half your hair fall out.

Blogging didn’t save my life. But it certainly helped.

I’m a writer and so, when things get weird, I write. When my son Dylan was born at 24 weeks in 2005, I took to the blog to not only be sad, but to mock the entire situation among friends. Humor is one coping mechanism that cannot be underestimated.

Some days I wrote stuff like this:

“What the (#$@#$@) is hospital tape made out of? Rubber cement? I still can’t get it off my arms.”

“Is it wrong for me to be filled with such glee that AETNA PPO is going to have to pay at least a million dollars to keep my baby alive over the next three months?”

There were sad posts:

“What if Dylan dies and I never get to hold him?”

“With the tube out of his mouth, you can hear him crying. He sounds like a tiny mouse. He looks miserable. I feel miserable.”

And there were happy posts:

“For the first time in weeks, I felt just right. I felt relaxed, like when I used to lay with (my older son) as a baby. In fact, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I felt happy. It was a good thing.”

“Guess who is coming home on Friday? That’s right! Baby is coming home on Friday!”

I’m no shrinking violet – I tend to speak my mind 99.9 percent of the time – but blogging was another way to express myself and to seek out the support I needed. It was also a way to document what was happening in my life at that time. I’m glad I did because the years have blurred a lot of details.

I divide preemie blogs into several categories. One is place to express your feelings. A second is to create a space to keep family and friends updated on the latest news. A third is a blog designed to help other preemie moms, much like this one on Hand to Hold.

Obviously blogs can offer a combo. If you’re going to blog, you’ll soon figure out where you’re headed.

Anyone can blog. Don’t tell yourself you can’t because you don’t write well or your grammar stinks. Who cares?

Don’t stop yourself because you’re shy or embarrassed to put yourself out there. Blogging software has a way to keep your site private.

I’m not a professional blogger, but I have a few tips that might help you along your journey. Feel free to ignore all of them. Do whatever works for you. That’s what blogging is all about.

Blogging Tips from a Seasoned Journalist and NICU Mom

Write like no one is reading. If you’re tailoring your thoughts to get the hits, be popular or impress people, you’re missing the point. Authenticity is important. Unless the blog is solely for educational purposes, be who you are and say what you feel. And if you suddenly regret what you said? Delete. Yes, everything lives on the internet forever, but is anyone really going to try and find that eliminated post? Probably not.

Write regularly. It doesn’t have to be every hour or even every day. But blogging can give you a small sense of purpose when you’re living a life that, sometimes, barely seems bearable. It might give you a small sense of power at a time when everything is out of your control.

Invite visitors, shun interlopers. This is your blog. Yes it’s in a public space, but that doesn’t mean you have to share it with everyone if you don’t want to. You can invite your friends and family and blogging buddies into your world while shunning obnoxious know-it-alls who always have something useless to say. And speaking of which…

Consider the value of comments. They can be fantastic or epic failures. Say you’re loving your blog and really getting lots of support. But then people start giving unsolicited advice or trying to one-up your experience. Annoying, right? You may not be able to ban Aunt Gertrude, but you can kill the comments.

Don’t underestimate your value. You’re not a cliché. You’re not like everyone else. You’re not just moaning and groaning for attention. You matter. You have something to share. You will affect people in ways you may never know.

Blogging isn’t for everyone. Some people don’t need to write to cope with having a preemie, no matter what stage they’re in. But if you’re toying with it, give it a try. It may help you more than you know.

Guest Blogger

Andrea Ball writes about social services for the Austin American-Statesman. She has worked for the newspaper since 1999 and covers topics including mental health, intellectual disabilities, poverty and nonprofits. She also writes “Here and There,” a Sunday features column. Andrea lives in North Austin with her husband, two sons and three dogs.

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