ABOUT NICU HEALING
NICU Healing is an online therapeutic resource designed for families currently in the NICU, recently released from the hospital, or coping with the residual effects of the trauma they experienced in having a preterm or medically complex infant. This site offers parents and family members access to free tips, educational materials and resources, as well as a brief (8 week), for-pay individual and couples therapy program designed to help parents to cope with the trauma, anxiety and depression that can be triggered by the NICU experience, heal the damage that this trauma can wreak on a partnership, and to understand, solidify and strengthen parents' attachment with their baby. NICU Healing also offers an eight hour staff training for NICU staffs and peer mentor program staffs to integrate trauma-informed care into their programs.
In having a premature or medically complex baby, a family goes through several different points of acute traumatic experience: a potentially high risk pregnancy, the birth experience, seeing your child on life support, coping with the baby's separation from the family, a variety of medical interventions and, oftentimes, more. These experiences can have vast and deep effects on the health of a family, and can make what once felt loving, hopeful and comforting feel dangerous, fearful and alienating.
Having to leave a child at a hospital whilst s/he is in a medically fragile state is a heart-rending experience. Parents are often left to sort out this experience on their own and to find ways of coping using their own resources. Unfortunately, this experience can be very isolating, and takes its toll on both the marital/partner relationship as well as individuals' relationships with family and friends. Parents sometimes report feeling as though their attachment to their little one is in some way damaged, as babies spend days, weeks, sometimes months that were supposed to be in utero, instead inside of plastic incubators, miles away from their parents.
NICU Healing is designed to help parents and families to feel empowered in loving, understanding, advocating, and caring for their infants. It seeks to help families find reprieve from the traumatic experiences they've had and to transform that trauma into powerful attachment with their child/children and solidarity as a family.
ABOUT KARA WAHLIN, MFT
Kara Wahlin is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (BBS License #53003) who practices in the Coachella Valley in Southern California. Kara is trained in art therapy and postmodernism, and incorporates those modalities into her therapeutic practice. She believes in the strengths of her clients to overcome adversity, as well as in utilizing innovative approaches to help individuals to heal.
Kara went through spontaneous preterm labor with her fraternal twin boys William and Elliott at 26 weeks in her pregnancy. When the hospital was unable to stop the labor with numerous means, she gave birth to the boys at 26 weeks, 6 days. They were immediately transferred to the NICU and put on life support. After a brief "honeymoon", William's health quickly deteriorated. He passed away when he was one week old.
Elliott faced his own challenges in the NICU: jaundice, breathing assistance, PDA ligation, blood transfusions, anemia of prematurity, reflux, bradycardia and apnea spells, and difficulty coordinating the suck swallow breathe reflex. He spent 88 days in the NICU, and came home just shy of his actual due date.
Throughout this experience, it was stunning to Kara the lack of easily accessible therapeutic resources available to parents going through the trauma of prematurity, especially after the discharge of infants from the NICU. It felt as if there was a secret world in which parents went through the stress of the NICU, that was largely unknown to most everyone else. She vowed that she would utilize her expertise to someday reach out to other parents going through the NICU experience and to provide containment and healing for these incredibly strong and resilient people she suddenly found herself surrounded by.
Kara found that there were several therapeutic tools that were useful in helping her to function at an optimal level, as well as to feel closer to both Elliott and William in moving forward, albeit sometimes painfully, in her life. She developed NICU Healing with the understanding that having the financial means and the time to seek out therapy is challenging when one has a child in the NICU or is on quarantine afterward.
NICU Healing provides parents with a set of tools for coping and thriving with a new set of challenges put to them by having a medically complex or premature baby that were developed by a therapist who went through a similar experience.