Before we were even out of the NICU, I remember sitting in the hospital and vividly thinking that I need to do something to help mothers going though this. Having a baby (or two) in the NICU creates the strongest feeling of helplessness. You feel so alone. Once word got out about our twins' early birth, a few friends of friends reached out to share their NICU experience. Prior to that, I knew no one who had been through an extensive NICU stay.
After the twins came home and I began sharing our story on social media, mother after mother reached out to me to tell me their NICU story too. Things began to snowball from there and I realized that there really are a lot more of us than I realized.
Managing my trauma surrounding the twins birth and their medical journey has been the most difficult part to navigate. I think its because we, as a society, aren't talking about the trauma the mothers are left with after they leave the NICU. I myself struggle with waves of anxiety that seems to peak right around the month that the twins were born. It has taken years for me to realize that no matter how much I feel I have “done the work” emotionally, spiritually and mentally; my body still remembers.
My body uses anxiety to try to protect me and it’s hard to tell your body that its response is no longer serving us. I wish someone had told me sooner that our body keeps score because maybe I wouldn’t get so frustrated when a wave of anxiety and sleeplessness knocks me off my feet.
It is also confusing to have my body “yell at me” when I should be simply enjoying the celebration of my sons’ births. It has taken me years to understand one of the best days of my life (my sons birth) is also the same day as my worst and that those are two separate events, both deserve space and one does not cancel out the other.
As with my experience, a mothers’ birth trauma is often overlooked or put to the side because of, well, life. I intend to change that.
I started Cards of Hope in September of 2022 during NICU awareness month. I create a new painting every month and its sales to send out fine art prints to any mother of traumatic birth who requests one. On the back of the art, I write a personal note to let the mother know that her feelings are valid and, most importantly, that she is not alone especially during the month of her birth trauma.
As of April 2023, I have sent out 150 Cards of Hope with a another 250 in the queue. New mothers continue to sign up weekly and it is an honor to be the person who gets to remind them that they are not alone. I have realized that even if they have no one else, they have me and my art is a symbol to represent that.