Bringing the new baby home from the hospital is an exciting milestone event for every parent. But, what if plans change? It's very frightening and stressful if the newborn needs to be admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Babies who need to go to the unit are often admitted within the first 24 hours after birth. Sometimes NICU babies have a condition linked to being born prematurely. The length of time the baby must stay in the NICU depends on the severity of his or her condition.
Healing for Parents in the NICU by Kathy Morelli, LPC is a special resource to help new parents turn towards each other and connect during the difficult time when their baby is being treated in the NICU. Kathy is a Licensed Professional Counselor and the Director of BirthTouch, LLC®. She encourages couples to support and communicate with each other to relieve the enormous stress during one of the most stressful time any parent can have.
I recently interviewed Kathy about this special book.
ROBIN BLAKELY: What experience with NICU couples influenced you most to write BirthTouch® Healing for Parents in the NICU?
KATHY MORELLI: Of course, I would never discuss any of my clients' personal experiences. But in general, in my work with couples who are experiencing exhaustive NICU parenting, I see first-hand how emotionally and physically draining it is to have a baby born prematurely. I see those parents do the loving hard work of bed rest, and the work of birthing a premature infant, which is as physically demanding a process as a full-term birth. There are so many levels of loss in the experience, so much sadness to process. The mom often does not have time to adequately prepare for the sheer physical experience of childbirth, as her needs for birth preparation has gotten lost in the medical management of her case. And then there is the sheer primal pain of experiencing your newborn in a ventilator.
This tough life experience truly tests one's ability to retain loving civility and tolerance for your self and your partner. Before I became a licensed counselor, I was a shiatsu practitioner. So, I have a deep belief and respect for the power of touch to comfort and heal on a primal, non-verbal level.
ROBIN BLAKELY: How important emotionally is the action of physical touch for parents in the NICU?
KATHY MORELLI: Research has shown us what we always knew - that therapeutic touch is a powerful healing force, influencing the body mind and spirit in ways that words cannot. If your partner is sad and angry, maybe words can't reach over the emotional divide the way a soothing quiet touch can. Sometimes there are no words for such a primal pain.
ROBIN BLAKELY: How is touch used as a healing technique?
KATHY MORELLI: Touch is used to soothe and enact the relaxation response. The stress response is so naturally turned on during during painful experiences. Touch can gently remind the body about the relaxation response.
ROBIN BLAKELY: What are some steps to take or words to use to communicate if one partner is not as self aware as the other?
KATHY MORELLI: Ah, good question. It depends on the degree of the lack of self-awareness. If there is a large gap, don't let anyone tell you there is a simple method to correct this type of imbalance in a relationship.
But, some helpful tips when dealing with a difficult partner follow. The best thing you can do is remain calm yourself and communicate as clearly as you can about what you need. Remember the power of love is often not enough to heal another's wounds and it is not your fault if you cannot do so. It is an internal personal process to be undertaken by the individual.
ROBIN BLAKELY: How important is it to the baby for parents to reduce stress inside of themselves or between them?
KATHY MORELLI: Doing your own hard emotional work is the best way to become a good enough parent. It is vital for parents to learn to reduce their own stress for the good of their baby. The best thing you can do as a parent is to do the hard work of looking at your own past hurts and work at healing yourself. The process of healing yourself is what allows you to be accepting of and present for your child as a mature and nurturing figure.
For people with complex pasts, their baby/child's dependency needs can stir up anger and resentment. The roots of an over-reaction is found in their personal feelings about their own unmet emotional needs. We confront our own feelings of lack in the transition to parenting and must grow past these feelings.
For more info on this special book, click here.