If you haven’t seen Jimmy Kimmel’s emotional speech about his son’s birth and heart surgery during his first few days of life, it’s worth a watch. To see this man who makes us laugh night after night open up and tell his story while his voice wavers has big lessons for all new parents dealing with birth trauma.
There’s always something to be grateful for and always something to laugh about.
So maybe your baby didn’t need open heart surgery when he was 3 days old. Or maybe he did. Or maybe you experienced a pregnancy loss. Or maybe your perfectly healthy baby is sleeping on your chest right now. Maybe your birth was wonderful, but now you are home living in a torturous state of massive sleep deprivation. You may still have feelings of trauma.
There's already a bunch of great blog posts about dealing with birth trauma when you have a healthy baby. I want to share here what we can learn from Jimmy Kimmel.
When people tell you, "the baby is healthy that’s all that matters," you still have to deal with the emotions that come up for you. One of the best ways, as Jimmy Kimmel demonstrates, is with Vitamin G – GRATITUDE. And a little humor.
You need to feel to heal. You need to tell your story. No you don't need to go on national television. Find a close friend, doula or counselor and share your story. Maybe don't tell it to the random 8 months pregnant woman standing in front of you at the checkout line, but find someone else. Telling your story is healing. Telling your story and finding glimmers of graditude is exceptionally healing. Finding moments of humor is even better.
Life is not perfect. When bad things happen, tuning into gratitude is a first step on the path toward healing.
When Jimmy Kimmel shares his story, he tells us all the scary details. The moments of terror. We can see him putting it out there – not holding it in. We are watching him feel better right before our eyes. Then he jokes, "Poor kid has heart disease AND he got my face" and we all laugh with relief. So did he. He ended the speech looking better than he did when he started.
He spends just as much time listing the people he's grateful to as he does telling the story.
Gratitude is healing. There’s always something to be grateful for. Always. Maybe it’s your baby’s health. Maybe it’s the meal your best friend dropped off on your porch. Maybe it’s the nurse who held your hand and whispered a comforting phrase. Maybe it's the breath you are breathing in right now.
Sometimes its that you’re in the hospital feeling helpless yet being grateful for the dedicated staff that is working as hard as they can. Sometimes its that your baby won’t stop crying, yet you are grateful that you have a roof over your head.
Focus on your gratitude WHILE AT THE SAME TIME honoring the negative feelings and emotions that you are having. They can co-exist.
Gratitude can be the flashlight guiding you out of the dark.
We don’t all have access to a popular night show where we can read off our list of gratitudes to millions of people. But that’s ok. Start by making a list in a journal every morning or every evening before you lay down (notice I didn’t say sleep!) Too tired to write? Just mentally make a list, repeat it over and over to yourself throughout the day.
Take it a step further and make a call or a coffee date to express gratitude out loud. Let the tears flow and the feelings of gratitude sweep over you both.
So, thank you Jimmy Kimmel for all the years of laughter. I'm so happy that baby Billy is well and I'm grateful that you shared your story. Thank you.