There are four women I talk to nearly every single day. They are my lifeline. They keep me sane. They make me laugh. They lend a shoulder when I cry. They know to hand over the pillow when I need to scream, and to hand over the bottle of wine when it’s just been a day. I return the favor. Some days, our talks might be as simple as one of us telling a joke. Some days, the conversation loops throughout the day (week, month) to work through parenting stuff, especially when our different needs kiddos are involved. These women get it. When I say something about NICU life, even fourteen years later, they completely understand, because they’ve lived it too.
I see them, or most of them, once a year if things work out right with dates and such. One of them, my bestie of all besties, I usually get to see twice a year (it’ll be three this year!). You see, these four ladies don’t live anywhere near me. The closest is a four-hour flight away. Two of them live about as far away as you can get and still be on the continental U.S. They are not childhood friends. They are not college buddies. We met online. Truly. I mean it.
Nine years ago, I found this amazing online community for NICU parents. I’ve probably mentioned it before. The first time I logged on, I didn’t think I’d be back. I thought I would just share our oldest son’s story of prematurity and that would be it. But a couple of days later, I went back. And then I went back again. Within a couple of weeks, it was part of my daily life. These people spoke the same language. They understood my grief, my fears, my pain. They got it. They got me. And I understood them. Daily check-ins, Sunday evening online chats….it was like a guilty pleasure at first. I didn’t want to tell anyone about my new friends. I could just imagine the comments. But I was sucked in. I’d found a home. Our conversations went past prematurity, NICU stays for any reason, and the loss of the dream pregnancy.
Ten months later, five of us had the opportunity to attend a conference together. I jumped at the chance. I was also terrified. I’d never met these people on person. And I’d met them online. I was to room with the Bestie. Our staff liaison jokingly (or was it?) warned Bestie against rooming together. What if I were crazy? But when I walked into the hotel where the conference was held, I heard a voice I immediately knew without ever having heard. That was it. I had the most amazing few days. Conversations we’d started online carried right over to in-person talks. The hugs were real. The emotional ties were true. Nine years later, that still holds true.
These four women I talk to every day are part of that community. I wouldn’t know them but for Big Man’s prematurity. While I would completely undo his start to life, the silver lining is these amazing women, and others like them whom I’ve met over the course of the last nine years. In some ways, they are my reward for enduring Big Man’s premature birth and NICU stay. I don’t have to explain myself to them, nor they to me.
I’m no longer embarrassed to say I met this group of some of my best friends online. They are some of the toughest, strongest people I know. They give me strength, hope, courage, love, and healing. We met online, and I am oh so happy we did.
This is what it’s all about…….