This article was originally published at www.grahamsfoundation.org
I “attended” a virtual happy hour the other day. It was nice to see people’s faces and have conversations with friends even if they were mostly about isolation and COVID-19. We were all sharing stories from our days, tales of working from home, schooling from home, and trying to create some semblance of normalcy all within the four walls of our houses. As I listened, I began to get a strange sensation…this feeling of déjà vu. I have never experienced a global pandemic before, but all the emotions I am currently experiencing are very familiar. I have felt this type of fear and isolation before…when I had a baby in the NICU. All of the trauma that I thought I had dealt with years ago, is slowly seeping back into my life.
If you are a current or former NICU parent, you may also be reliving some of these same fears, concerns, and experiences that were a part of your time in the NICU. And as a result, you may be struggling a little more than the average person. But I would like to remind you (and myself) that while it feels very heavy right now, NICU parents are uniquely qualified to cope with this type of situation because we all have prior experience. So remembering these things might help you to get through these days.
This is hard, but you can do hard things.
Remember learning that your baby would need to be in the NICU? I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything harder than that. And it didn’t get any easier as I traveled back and forth from the hospital, pumped, washed and sanitized everything, and worried about my tiny baby. Because I overcame this very hard experience before, I know I can do it again.
There is so much uncertainty, but you have felt that before.
Do you wake up not knowing what news the day will bring? Will something bad happen that will set back the progress you were hoping to make? It sounds like a typical day in the NICU! I can’t think of a situation with more uncertainty than the NICU roller coaster. Things are going well and it looks like it will all be over soon, and then a setback puts you back at square one. Because I dealt with this previous ambiguity, I know I can do it again.
You are staying at home, but you’ve experienced time in isolation.
In the first year of my babies’ lives, we stayed home all the time. They were released from the NICU in the middle of RSV season and it was just too risky to take them out in public. So we didn’t. After several months in the NICU, it was not the ideal situation as I was ready to resume life as usual. And I wanted my babies to experience real-life outside of a hospital and my house. But it wasn’t safe, so we just didn’t do it. I actually have many tender memories of that time as we all hunkered down in our little cocoon. Because of this previous time in isolation, I know that I can do it again, and I’m hoping that in a few years I will look back at this time fondly as well.
Our current state of affairs feels eerily similar to the NICU experience to me. This brings up a lot of feelings like fear, anxiety, and isolation. If you are also feeling these things, don’t forget to tap into your support network if you need additional help. But I also feel a sense of hope! I learned that from the NICU as well! I made it through once, and I can do it again…and you can too!