This week we have a very special guest on the blog, Ali Dunn, founder of Me Two Books! I’m so excited for her to share her perspective as a NICU mom, writer, speaker, and advocate with you! I encourage you to connect more with her on her blog, Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook!
Ali, tell us how Me Two Books began.
As my twins grew, they loved hearing about their “origin” story and seeing pictures from their babyhood. From the very beginning, this always included discussions of life in the NICU, explaining that they were born early and were very small and needed additional time in the hospital to grow. I thought a book would be a nice supplement to the conversations we were having, so I set out to find a book about the NICU. I was looking for something that was a simple introduction to the NICU, was developmentally appropriate for younger toddlers, and reframed the NICU experience from scary to positive. But I couldn’t find anything I loved, so I decided to write one myself.
I started Me Two Books, an organization that uses books as an educational tool to help children recognize differences in themselves and others and to embrace them. My first book, I Was a Preemie Just Like You celebrates what young preemies went through, and reminds them that they are not alone. I know that one of the things that I enjoyed in the NICU was reading. It made me feel like a “normal” parent and I could block out all the noise and imagine that I was sitting in my children’s nursery reading to them instead of a hospital. I hope my books can provide that calming peaceful experience to help families escape in the pages of a book and enjoy time with their child while in the NICU.
What do you want people to know about life in a NICU?
Whether your child is in the NICU 1 day or 100 days, it is so hard. I really wished someone would have told me that it is ok, to not be ok. In fact, holding all of the trauma and emotions inside is not what is best for anyone. As silly as it sounds, I really needed someone to give me permission to be a mess. While your baby needs time in the NICU to learn, and grow, you need time to start to process the trauma you have been through and to begin to heal. It won’t happen overnight, but I believe that it can happen. I’m not sure who needs to hear this, but from one NICU parent to another… it is ok to not be ok.
What kind of impact do you hope that your platform can have in the NICU community?
I hope my work can help someone to not feel so alone. I was unprepared to deal with life in the NICU. I had never seen a premature baby or toured a NICU before. I didn’t know anyone who had a NICU baby. I remember feeling so isolated. I don’t want anyone else to have to feel like they are without support during this traumatic time.
What inspires you to keep advocating for preemies?
Parenting a preemie inspires me every day. It is so amazing to see what these miracle babies can accomplish. I know now that life after the NICU is just the beginning of so many brilliant and hard things. The NICU experience doesn’t end at discharge.
What are some of your favorite tools, resources, or gadgets that make a NICU journey easier?
To conquer the NICU you need lots of books, a camera, a journal, a good breast pump, and support!
Ali Dunn is the founder of Me Two Books and the author of four children’s books: I Was a Preemie Just Like You, I Needed the NICU Just Like You, One of Two, a Twin Story about Individuality, and The Career Explorer: An Introduction to Career Development and STEAM Careers. She is also the creator of an e-course for parents about career exploration. Ali is the chief mom officer of identical twins born at 28 weeks via emergency c-section.