As I looked at the photo of Jimmy and Tori Rees' faces in the photo they posted on Instagram yesterday, I felt a powerful surge of empathy. I could also relate personally, as much as I wish I didn't.
Along with much of the nation, I followed their crisis in which their seven-week-old baby Mack fought for his life after a tongue tie snip went horribly wrong last week
In an update yesterday Tori detailed the events that were near fatal for Mack.
"After a failed tongue tie snip on Thursday afternoon, my son was rushed by ambulance to Gosford hospital where he laid in resus and had over 30 people working on him. CPR, blood transfusions, ventilator, emergency surgery, NETS transfer, ICU, and a hell of a lot of drugs my Mack has proven the specialists wrong and is slowly mending."
Knowing that Mack is home safely today, I know also that another journey is just beginning for Jimmy and Tori - the one where they process - and try to make sense of - the experience of nearly losing a child.
The Rees' situation echoes in some ways my own experience. While dealing with a different medical issue, the fact I nearly lost my own four-week-old son to Viral Meningitis - which killed three toddlers that season - left scars I spent months dealing with afterwards.
With all the focus understandably on Mack as he fought for life, it's now important for Jimmy and Tori to prioritise their own recovery as they move forward.
We have a superhero party coming up, just trying the costumes on!!! Lenny’s face is classic 🤣!!! We are all a fraction exhausted & delirious 😳!! Also, Mack is out of hospital and home, continuing his recovery, still has a very sore mouth but he is getting there. Wrapping him in cotton wool for a while now, the precious little fella. @rees_tori
When you first get home from hospital you feel incredibly grateful you still have a child in your arms. Then the reality of what happened hits.
There might be flashbacks to the emergency room, the urgent energy of the staff as they try to save the life of your child.
Despite being exhausted, you may not be able to sleep much, the images flooding your head in the dead of night. You worry the trauma on their tiny body - the drugs, and all the interventions - may have affected them in ways that will emerge in the future.
Jimmy and Tori would already be working on a deficit of sleep and energy, caring for newborn twins and a toddler. So what are the kinds of things they can do to ensure they can move through this difficult period in the healthiest way possible?
Therapist Candida Virgo says that, "In cases where there has been significant trauma, self care is super important."
She adds, "This might come in the form of spending time with friends, getting enough sleep, keeping a journal, making time to do things you enjoy and eating nice food."
She also suggests that professional help can improve mental health outcomes for parents who have experienced trauma.
She adds, "Such trauma can also impact on the relationship between parents and counselling can also help to open up communication between the parents, to avoid blame and unrealistic expectations of each other."
Counselling psychotherapist Dr Karen Phillip still remembers the trauma of her newborn daughter dying three times after her birth, before being saved by medical staff. Though 30 years ago, the memory remains, but she says comfortingly that ongoing trauma isn't a given.
Dr Phillip says, "Any parent who experiences the trauma of almost losing their baby can struggle through the 'what if' and 'if only' scenario. While normal this can also be dangerous."
"Parents are told to focus on their baby, be thankful and grateful for the wonderful outcome and while this is correct, the feeling of the 'what if' or 'if only' often sneaks in.'
She adds, "Parents should speak about their fears together, while ending conversations with a positive outcome such as 'we were so close to losing our baby, and now he/she is here with us, growing, developing as they should."
She also suggests therapy for the parents, especially if they are trying to unpack a medical accident.
Ultimately, Dr Phillip says the passage of time allows healing to take place once the parents learn that their thoughts, fears and anxieties are normal. Therapy can assist them with tools to lessen these feelings over time.
"Time is a great healer and eventually the emotional attachment to the event will subside," she says.