Celebrate Every Step
In our dream big moments, don’t forget the small steps.
“Celebrate any progress. Don’t wait to get perfect.” – Ann McGee-Cooper
I love this quote because once upon a time I wanted to wait until my daughter Zoe could sit up unassisted before we took family portraits. I wanted to wait until things were perfect.
I wanted the perfect baby announcements. I ordered 20 different samples that had just arrived about a week before I was hospitalized. I opened the thick sample pack and delicately examined each one as if I were handling antiquities. I savored the feel of the smooth, heavyweight papers. I traced the delicate fonts with my forefinger imagining what I might lay out for my girls. Vellum overlays were big back then and the ethereal look it gave the photos made my heart swell with longing for my baby girls.
My mother encouraged me to send the announcements after my girls were born at 25 weeks gestation, but I didn’t. I couldn’t. I didn’t want to scare our friends and family by sending them a card with pictures of my fetuses inside isolettes.
No one would hang that on their refrigerator. No one would want to look at a photo of a baby with translucent skin and eyes that were still fused shut.
So I waited.
We had come so far, 291 days in the NICU after our triplet girls were each born weighing slightly over one pound. Their arms and legs were as big around as my finger, and their feet could be measured from the tip of your thumb to that joint just below your thumbnail cuticle.
Zoe came home at nearly ten months old, and we created a makeshift photo session on our sofa. The product was a photograph for a card that sufficed as a birth announcement/everyone’s finally home from the NICU announcement/holiday card.
But it wasn’t the same.
It wasn’t newborn announcement beautiful. It didn’t have that tightly swaddled baby with a floral crown sleeping sweetly in a basket kind of feel.
My next goal was to have a family portrait session when Zoe could sit up unassisted (she had severe developmental delays and at 12 months was unable to sit by herself). Then we could have that “perfect” family picture to hang on the wall and send to family members.
“I’ll wait until she can do that. Then! Then it’ll be perfect.” I thought to myself.
I waited so long for things to be “perfect,” but things never were. Zoe died just shy of 14 months old before she was able to sit up unassisted.
I waited too long and never got the perfect family portrait of my dreams.
While this story is very personal to my NICU and post-NICU experience, and I imagine resonates with many of our members, the lessons learned translate beyond family life into our professional lives as NICU Parent Leaders and Advocates.
As a leader, advocate, and social entrepreneur, you have huge goals and dreams. However, making those big goals your main focus can slow your progress and may not allow you to appreciate every forward step as you should. When you train your attention on what’s left to do or what’s next, you’re less likely to enjoy the feeling of accomplishment and victories along your journey. This is a practice I learned from my mentor. We always start our monthly sessions with me telling her three to five good things. It can be as small as writing an overdue thank you note, or as big as launching an initiative. When everything feels like a struggle, this practice has helped me remain encouraged. It reminds me that turning ideas into a reality is a process which takes time and that’s ok.
Zoe’s doctor told me that her progress would not be measured in days or even weeks, but that her progress would be measured in months or possibly years. It was a reminder to me to reflect on and celebrate every accomplishment because every step forward got us closer to going home.
Even if you don’t end 2018 where you had hoped, be sure to celebrate every bit of progress you, your team, or your organization has made. Don’t wait until you hit the significant milestones or the big goals. If you’re only looking for the big ones, you may miss lots of tiny good things that add up to huge moments.