Saturday, March 5, 2011

Parents Who Journal in the NeoNatal Intensive Care Unit Promote Healing & Celebration

Transposing one's feelings into a record for purposing of healing, understanding emotion, documenting memories and more. The effectiveness of journaling has long since been known, but the perspective of using the 
processes of documenting thoughts and feelings for those who have been medically challenged is a new concept. In 2007, a Mother gave birth to a premature infant, 10 weeks to soon. Within having her first born son, and touching his tiny hand through an isolette window, her yearning for journaling began. "It became the most important thing to me. To recall all of the first moments that I had shared with my son. It became a way to cope and to deal with the stresses of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit." Her journaling began and continued for the next 33 days. With emotion, sentiment and love for her child the journaled pages grew that included photos and written word from a Mother to her child. "I truly drove home 20 minutes every night, and ran to straight my computer to import photos from my camera from the day spent in the NICU. I would layout pages that outlined the milestones and setbacks for the day. I would include any emotions that I knew would fall behind in the days and years to come. Journaling, became an outlet for me. The benefits provided healing as the feelings of guilt and loss lessened" By early 2008, this preemie Mom began to put her journaling ideas into fruition for other parents of premature infants. Working with a motivation to change the outlook of prematurity in society, the course of the next year would produce 'A Journey to Home, A Preemie Baby Book and NICU Companion Journal'. The self-published, first edition was offered in full-color pages with fill-in journaling areas that outlined steps through the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. "I had little knowledge of what was to come for us in the next 33 days, this journal offers pages of processes. Essentially, of both emotional processes and NICU processes." The supplemental baby book was marketed for a year when the demand required more pages and larger journaling space. Working with an illustrator, the pages took on a stunning vintage appeal. "It was essentially a digital scrapbook. The look and feel was different on each page but maintaining the beauty and integrity that every Mother would appreciate." Lara Payton of Dusty Bear Designs provided the Graphic Artist and Preemie Mother with every element that she needed for her own journal and for other Mothers touched by prematurity. "I have found a true friend in Lara, she honestly understood the overall need for the journal and allowed me to use her elements to design and eventually commercially publish the book. Lara knew that her art was healing others, and that is why she chose to participate in this mutual adventure." The Mothers from Nebraska and Kansas joined hands in the cause, without ever meeting each other face to face, only through the love of art and being Moms. Close to a year went by when the publication sold month by month via word of mouth and Google search engine help. It was a time of testing for the needs of premature infants and their parents. The Neonatal Care Units, Foundations, Organizations as well as Parents began to hear of the journal and the benefits for parents. It lead to the time of full publication. "I had such great feedback that it was time to take the journal to the next level. I had to find a means to provide the journal at the lowest cost possible, with the best printing options available. Within months I had a re-design done on the diary and it was ready for publication with an ISBN. I leaned towards CreateSpace for their affiliation with Amazon and their integration with print on demand services. I could not have asked for a better experience. I could finally produce the book with double the pages and almost double its physical size for less than my first edition." Within months, the journal was finally available to the public. Within one more month the book was listed on Amazon and number one as Google shopping results for a Preemie Baby Book. The dreams of a Preemie Parent had been taken to a whole new level, and the realization that helping others in the moments of prematurity would be an absolute part of her destiny drove to more results. Contacting hospital gift shops, NICU foundations, Preemie Support Groups and Organizations would lead to providing an instant inlet for families. "When I spent a week on bed rest, I was given the opportunity to meet with a Neonatal physician. He actually visited my bedside and spoke to me about what I should expect. I was clouded with hope in that I would not be the one to need his services, although in three days I learned different. I absolutely respect what these people do everyday, although I felt that my emotional needs were avoided. I speak of this as I look back into my heart and see all of my expectations and hopes diminish into an experience that I had no control of. The doctors know this, although sometimes the heart of a Mother is not their job to attend to. After my son's birth, I was wheel-chaired down four floors to visit his isolette. I was limited to touch his foot, his hand and head. I had no idea when the glass would be removed and when I could hold my baby for the first time. That came four days later, after I was discharged from the hospital." A Preemie Parents journey is a long and full of feelings of loss. The health of a premature infant is fragile and well, unpredictable, especially for parents. "I did not know what to ask. I did not want to ask to remove the isolette for fear I would push the situation at hand and endanger my child. The journal outlines progresses and reminds parents to ask those questions in order to predict when they will be able to bond, hold and care for their Preemies." Picture after picture, night after night, milestone after set-back parents wonder in a world called the NICU. Alarms, procedures and even surgeries are a part of a premature infants life. "The NICU tries it's best to provide a society of parents who can meet and learn from each other, although it can't do this job effectively enough because professional nurses, social workers, doctors and others are so overwhelmed with their daily tasks. I have seen it first hand. I wish, and I know that the professionals wish the same, that there was more time to do more for the parents. They just don't know what they can do in the time that they have." Social workers provide information to families about financial planning and aid for the future. Developmental Care Specialists offer support for preemies and their families by sighting issues and predicting next steps. Lactation Consultants offer support with breast feeding and the benefits of a Mother's milk to a premature infant. Head Nurses spend a minimum of twelve hours assisting up to 25 babies per day and a staff of over eight nurses. Neonatologists spend their mornings bonding with the team, calling parents daily with reports on the prior night, and assessing new goals for babies for the day. "It is team of people that seriously have dedicated their lives to these little lives. As much as I love little babies, this job is not for me. I would be an emotional wreck! I know that. Caring for high-risk infants calls for some of the most talented people in the medical industry. There is no justification for prematurity, cancer, heart issues; there is no explanation for it, just that they have to trust that they are in the role to help a child make it one more day, and to let go when the battle is too much. What kind of an individual does that take? Someone who is close to God, possibly someone who understands that there is a higher purpose than what we know of right now, in this moment." Journaling and mending a heart began with that moment. "I wished I had a means to journal in the days I was upstairs in the hospital with my child in his isolette. I wish that I had the time to reflect on my pregnancy and the expectations of being a Mother for the first time. I wish I would have written the letter to my baby and said, I am sorry for not being able to protect you for 10 more weeks. I would have said that I feel that my body gave out on us, and that I would never allow myself to fail you on purpose. I would have hoped that your first photograph had never included tubes and wires leading to your heart and lungs, and I would have wished that all of our family would have celebrated in your birth with the expectation of you being full-term. I feel guilt for not being the Mother that I had expected me to be, although... Little Man, I always will be. Now and into your future. My hope for you is this..." That letter to my baby is one of the first pages in 'A Journey to Home', it is the Mother's response to the premature delivery of her child. It is the letter that will take years of guilt off the top of the circumstance and heal her to proceed on with the moments and months to come. "If I would have written that letter, I would have been in a better place. I still feel guilt, I do. I can't tell you how it feels when your three year old begins to ask what those tubes are in his baby pictures. I will never forget failing at my pregnancy, I will never let the emotional moments go when I thought I may loose my child, but what I want is for other parents to begin to come to terms earlier, and sooner. I think that this takes burdens off the emotional plate of prematurity and heals the family in ways that will better them in the future." We can all expect and take for granted the fact that we have children. We can see it as a pleasure or as a burden at times, but when we see that there are so many parents struggling to have just one, healthy child at such an emotional cost, we have to look back into the eyes of our child and know these are the blessings that we have and that others would greatly cherish in a heart beat. Treasure your child, hold them dear... There are so many entering the world today that will struggle for breaths, will struggle for heart beats and will battle for life and parents who devotionally, emotionally, monetarily, and physically put their lives on hold with outcomes unknown for the sake of a child. "We have to know that their are people who need help from us, over 500,000 children a year need Neonatal Care in the United States alone. We also know that that equates to 500,000 parents who need emotional and financial support. We as a society can do better to make prematurity a common and known possibility of pregnancy. It proceeds itself with feeling of guilt and loss. We as a society can do better for parents by providing support through many means. I will not allow my experiences to pass me by as a person who had a premature infant. I will always be an advocate for parents who are touched by prematurity and will do my best to serve them in the time that I have. My hope is that every NICU adopts the journal for the sake of the emotional support for their patients and their families. 'A Journey to Home' was created for that purpose. It is my way of giving back all of the moments that I felt were not celebrated, the moments of having a child, whether full-term or premature. It is my way of sending a message to parents that, yes, you are empowered to ask the next question, and yes, you know what the definition of said NICU term is. It is your time, your child, and certainly your moment. You can make a huge difference in your outcome by simply, knowing the processes and knowing yourself better."

'A Journey to Home, A Preemie Baby Book and NICU Companion Journal' is written and designed by Jessica Williams, Illustrated by Lara Payton and is available on Amazon at the following link:.
Released in 2010, the journal is available in both Teal and Pink Covers. The design quality is excellent an exceeds any Preemie Baby Book and NICU Journal on the market today. Please take the time to consider 'A Journey to Home' as part of your Foundation, Organization or Preemie Parent Support Group. This fill-in journal lends much healing to the moments of prematurity and allows parents to walk away with memories of their birth, celebration in moments, and empowerment in the processes of healing. For both parents in and out of the NICU, we thank you for your consideration.

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