One of my all time favourite images is the one you see when you first land of my website. The image is of a baby in an NICU isolette. My eyes are always drawn to all the hands and contact points between mother and baby. I find myself then looking at the NG tube and the oxygen tubes, reminding me of being in hospital with my own kiddo.
That Mother is Alice
I first met Alice when I photographed her and her son, Jonathan, in the Royal Alex NICU. It was part of a larger project one of the Stollery Children’s Hospital’s neonatologists was spearheading to show soon-to-be-NICU parents authentic images of families in the NICU. At the time the photo session was quite quick and I didn’t learn much of Alice’s story, but a few years later we crossed paths in a meeting for peer mentors. When we realized who the other person was a new friendship was sparked. There are a number of images that have left indelible marks on my heart and hers was one of them.
I Was There Too
Alice agreed to be the tenth and final participant in my I Was There Too series of conversations, a covid project where I chatted with families and photographers documenting and normalizing life with medical complexities. I got to chat with Alice about her own NICU story and why she became a peer mentor. We both agree peer support and hospitals holding space for medical families to connect with each other is very important. You can watch that conversation below. But don’t forget to come back to the blog because Alice has created an amazing digital story about her NICU experience. Scroll further to see that.
In This Conversation…
2:50 Why the NICU
4:30 Fast forward to now
7:00 Diagnosis, cardiac arrest and surgery to survive
12:00 NICU moms try this trick
14:30 Milk machine
16:30 Look how far we’ve come
18:30 Becoming a peer mentor
20:00 Wait, what is a peer mentor?
25:00 Connecting with other families
27:00 What’s going to happen if we have another baby? I would do it all again
29:30 How can you get involved with peer mentoring?
Continuing the Conversation
At the end of our I Was There Too conversation I allude to an idea that struck me while Alice and I were talking, and lucky for me, Alice was also interested in continuing our conversation! She agreed to co-create a digital story with me. For those of you who haven’t heard me gush about digital storytelling yet, a digital story is a 3-5 minute movie involving a participant’s own voice, chosen images and music.
Digital Story Process
Alice joined me for one of my Digital Storytelling Info Sessions and began thinking about the story she wanted to tell. As a peer mentor, she could see the opportunity to process her hospital experience by working through that story. She wrote her 400 word draft based on her outline and then worked with me to further develop her story. Alice’s digital story, I Believe, shares her experience as a new mother in the NICU. She tells an engaging story of unexpectedly parenting a preemie through medical challenges, knowing all the while that although life will never be the same, Jonathan was given to her for a reason.
As you watch, I Believe, think about what resonates with you.
Alice and I would love to hear what resonated with you from her story.