The Power of Writing - How to Start a Journal for Your Preemie Journey
Want to know one of the most powerful weapons a super-preemie-mom has in her possession?
It's where she:
- lets out all her overwhelming and burdensome emotions
- figures out what she needs to do
- tracks every bit of data she needs about her baby's every single thing
- has all of her questions and all of the answers packed into one space
- celebrates her strengths and the progress she & her baby are making
A journal truly is one of the cheapest and most powerful tools you can use when you have a preemie.
Journaling when your preemie is in the NICU
There's no one right way to keep a journal when your baby is in the NICU. It definitely varies, depending on your personality and how you like to write. Some moms:
- write down all the daily statistics: weight, feeding amount, # of diapers, medication doses, nurses for the day, etc (Every Tiny Thing has created the perfect journal exactly for this - take a peek at it here)
- vent about all of the wildly variable emotions - the guilt, the anger, the frustration, the helplessness, the jealousy, the sadness...
- celebrate the accomplishments, small and large
- log the updates they've had with the nurses & doctors by phone
- keep track of questions to ask the doctors during rounds
- write down instructions for how to use equipment, mix formula, do infant massage and more
- jot down new specialists' contact information and dates & times for appointments
When so much feels out of control in the NICU, a journal is something you can control. You can control what you write about, what you track, what's important to you. You can look back as the days pass to see how much you've learned, how much progress you and your baby have made.
And when your NICU journey is behind you, it's one of the most important keepsakes any NICU parent has. It is proof of your journey. It helps you remember all the stuff you could never remember otherwise, because the NICU becomes a blur. And as much as you might think you'll want your NICU days to fade from memory, you will be glad to have it. In fact, you might be surprised at the ways your journal brings you joy as your preemie grows. As one mother puts it:
"It’s the parenting ace in my back pocket. One day he will say he can’t do something, and I can show him the evidence that he is capable of anything." [Summer Hill-Vinson ]
Journaling after your preemie has graduated
After your NICU days are behind you, it can still be very healing to write. And again, there is no right or wrong. Grab a blank journal and just write (If you feel like you wouldn't know where to begin, keep reading. There's a great list of ideas for you below!)
Journaling can be helpful for just writing down memories so you don't forget them. Or it can be a great, safe place to vent all of the emotions you finally are feeling now that you have a moment to reflect back on your time in the NICU. Sometimes it's months or even years before moms are ready. That's okay! Whenever you are ready, start writing.
Research has shown that writing can have health benefits, but there are a few interesting points to keep in mind. According to the American Psychological Association:
- "By writing, you put some structure and organization to those anxious feelings....It helps you to get past them."
- "Suppressing negative, trauma-related thoughts compromises immune functioning."
- "Those who write visit the doctor less often."
- "Those who focus on meaning (ie - finding some deeper meaning behind the experience) develop greater awareness of positive aspects of a stressful event."
But... keep this in mind:
- "People who relive upsetting events without focusing on meaning report poorer health than those who derive meaning from the writing."
So don't be afraid to journal, but if you find that in the process of writing you're unable to find any positivity, if you're unable to see any meaning and it's not helping but making you feel more stressful, it's time to get the help you deserve. PTSD and trauma are real for many preemie moms and this is one sign that you are ready for help. There's no shame in needing help - the NICU is a very traumatic life event, and regardless of the length of stay or the severity of the prematurity, if you're struggling you deserve support.
Want Help getting started with a NICU Journal?
I've excited to share a brand new, never-before-seen freebie for you!
I'm the author of the NICU journal I mentioned earlier - Our NICU Journey. That journal is just the first in a series of journals that will be published for NICU moms and dads. The next journal in the series will be a guided journaling book that helps NICU parents who want to write about their experiences but who don't feel comfortable knowing what to write about. Rather than just staring at a blank page and wondering where to begin, you can have a helping hand guide you to the topics most parents find really helpful.
And you, lucky Hello Preemie readers, get the sneak peek! The official print-version of the journal is not ready to publish yet, but I've created a one-page PDF that has a big list of my favorite questions & topics to write about that you can use right away. Grab the PDF, print out the page, find any blank journal and then start writing. You'll begin healing in a new way, and you deserve it.
If you have any more journaling ideas you'd like to share, I'd love to hear them! I respond personally to all the emails that come in to Hello Preemie, so definitely reach out, say hello, and let me know what you think!