Life is hard sometimes. Really hard. We live through life events; we endure and emerge on the other side changed people. It’s easy to ask, “Why me?” or “What purpose did our experience serve?” In some ways, it can be up to you to define or create that purpose.
For example, having a micro-preemie born at 25 weeks and spending 126 days in the NICU was a life-altering event to be sure. I am not the same person I was before that experience. I have been fundamentally changed – as a person, as a woman, and as a mother. My son is almost seven now, so I’ve had a number of years to process our experience. On the other hand, there are some ongoing issues that we still deal with (and will probably deal with moving forward).
But early on, I made a conscious decision.
Although our NICU experience was scary, overwhelming, adrenaline-producing, exhausting, and life-changing, we can use it for good. How have we done that? Well, mostly by sharing our story and using it for good.
We’ve been fortunate as a family to have had a number of opportunities to share our story for good. I have shared our story with countless moms experiencing pregnancy complications, hospital bed rest, or a NICU stay, both online and in person. There’s something reassuring to hear someone say, “I get it. I’ve walked in your shoes. I feel your struggles.”
I consider it my privilege to be able to share parts of our story or our whole story as a way to help someone else feel less alone in their similar experience.
We have also shared our story as inspiration. In 2013 we were asked to be a Miracle Family for Iowa State Dance Marathon. Dance Marathon raises money for the Children’s Miracle Network hospitals, in this case, the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, where our son had his NICU stay. How do we use our story for good? We have the opportunity each year to share our family’s story from the main stage to hundreds of college students and in small groups of about 25 students. We hope to inspire them to continue raising money through ISUDM to support patients and families at the Children’s Hospital.
Our latest opportunity to share our story for good is happening tonight! We were selected as the 2017 Ambassador Family for the March of Dimes Iowa City Chef Auction. Our micro-preemie directly benefited from areas of research on underdeveloped lungs, funded by the March of Dimes. He was treated with lung surfactants, was sustained on two different high frequency ventilators, and received inhaled nitric oxide for about two months in the NICU. The March of Dimes has funded research in each of these areas. We have been raising money for a couple months, and tonight we will be sharing our story again, with hopes of inspiring attendees to donate to this cause near and dear to our hearts.
Have you experienced a loss, a life-changing event, or a trauma?
It could be an illness, a death, a financial crisis, a fire, an assault, or any number of hugely impactful events. Whatever your event, be assured that someone has gone through or is going through what you did. You could be a huge blessing to someone just by letting them know that you “get it.” You could inspire someone else to make a difference.
Maybe the thought of sharing terrifies you, and that’s OK. It may not be the right time, or it may never be the right time for you. This, too, is OK. But I challenge you to at least think about it. Not only can sharing your story impact someone else, it can be therapeutic for you. Whether you share part or all of your story, whether you share with one person or a group, you can use your story for good.