Having a baby can be the most adventuresome part of any person’s life. Having a baby in the NICU can be the most traumatic.
I believe that I was supposed to be a trauma therapist before I had my son. I don’t think I could have recovered as quickly or known what was happening to me if I didn’t have that background knowledge. That time in the delivery room and the two months in the NICU was what has now sculpted my life.
Now don’t assume that because I was a trauma therapist going through a NICU experience things went smoothly for me, on the contrary, things were totally out of control! I can look back and just see it as an experience because I’ve done A LOT of healing and soul searching and looking at my son. There are definite times when I purposely have to access my trauma counsellor brain to ask some tough questions of myself and how I want to move forward.
So that’s where this blog post sort of stems from, from the fact that short of going to a counsellor we all have to face the traumas that occurred with our little ones in the hospital and figure out what’s best for us in the moment.
These five suggestions are not to be mistaken for therapy and should NOT replace therapy. If I had a magic wand I’d let you borrow it, but the best thing I ever did for myself was I found a great counsellor who I felt comfortable with and I worked through those tough days in the delivery room and NICU.
So, without delaying further here’s the list of suggestions that you can do at home without a counsellor:
1 – Butterfly hugs
These were created by Francine Shapiro, a wonderful therapist.
These are hugs you can give yourself when you’re feeling trapped by memories that don’t feel very good. Cross your arms by putting your left hand on your right shoulder/arm and your right hand on your left shoulder/arm. Now, start tapping each hand one at a time, going back and forth. This is called bilateral movement. It stimulates your brain to process what it’s thinking about and helps to calm you down. Keep doing it until you feel a shift in your emotions.
2 – Read your own success story
If you’re stuck with bad memories from the birth or hospital stay with your baby write parts of your story focusing on the positive. For example: part of my story involves not knowing if my son was alive when he was delivered by c-section. I rewrite this part as follows: “My son was delivered by caring hands of the OB and surgeon early that morning. They placed him in the hands of a loving paediatrician who helped him take his first breaths.”
3 – Let your child be your healer
Take a look at your precious bundle. Whether they are 2 months old, 2 years old or 20 years old, allow them to show you how much they are here and thriving. Whenever I’m having a moment of post-traumatic stress I look at my son and let him lovingly show me how awesome he’s doing on his own schedule! He’ll show me a toy or do a little dance or something that usually puts a smile on my face – then my heart melts and I am so thankful for being pulled back into the present moment.
4 – Talk to someone you trust
If you don’t have the capacity to go to a counsellor or therapist, find someone in your life that you feel you trust and that could handle you talking a bit about your NICU trauma. You don’t have to use the word ‘trauma’ just tell the person you need a kind ear to listen to what’s on your mind.
5 – Choose to change your state of mind
When memories of trauma hit it can be hard to get yourself out of them. Reminding yourself that you have the power to sit in your pain or choose to walk through it. Telling yourself that it’s in the past, you came through it and you don’t have to do it again will help you regain the strength that I know you have. You know you have it too. You just have to remind yourself it’s there.
Having even a small toolbox of things that can help in those tough memory moments is better than feeling you have a backpack full of bricks. Again, none of these tools should replace a good counsellor or therapist and I hope you are able to find something new for you or your loved ones in this article.
Please leave a comment or post if you have any questions. I’d love to hear from you and know how you’re doing.
With the deepest of love,