Support

I was offered a place to stay countless times, people helped me with Medicaid paperwork, I was provided CPR classes and we received flu shots for my whole family. But no one ever asked how we were doing as parents. No one offered a support group to talk to parents who had been there before or even a way to connect with the other moms and dads who were currently there.

We reached out the best we could to others. I often chatted with moms in the pumping room. I found that I was the "experienced" one who often answered other moms questions. Me and a few others were old standbys while others cycled in on a weekly basis--  children just needed a day or two under the lights, unlike the longer term folks. But those were generally surface conversations. Some expressed fears but we hardly ever got into the more emotional stuff. 

I made friends with another mom with a son similar to CJ. They were born about the same gestational age and they mostly needed to learn to eat and gain weight. My husband made fun of me for wanting friends but I felt this deep need to find connection. 

My best friend connected me via email to a friend of hers from high school. Talking to her turned out to be a really helpful experience. She offered hope and experience that I knew must exist, but hadn't found yet.

She also introduced me to a Facebook group, Hand to Hold - NICU Family Forum. I didn't join until later, but I wish I had know about it so I could ask questions or just hear from other moms who had been there. It made me realize that others could understand what we'd be going through.  I'd highly recommend it!

I wish our hospital offered some sort of support group as a service. I volunteered as a mentor with Hand to Hold because I feel that was the biggest thing missing for me during our experience, so I'd encourage other moms in my position to reach out early for support. They can connect you with a mentor who has experienced similar issues and provide you with phone, text, email support.