Parents of Preemies Day is a free community event for parents of children born prematurely, their family, and friends. This love-filled day was created by the philanthropic parents, Jonathan Ross and Anne-Marie Boysen, of preemie twins. This was their 5th annual event and an entirely delightful day filled with magicians, bouncy castles, gifts and a wonderful sense of community.
Our very own Kim Walls, the founder of BEB Organic, was the keynote speaker at Parents of Preemies Day Los Angeles 2019, hosted by Graham’s Foundation and UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital.
We were honored to support their great efforts.
For anyone who wishes they were there, here is the transcript from Kim's talk:
My goal here today is to encourage each of you to become an ambassador or champion of touch - to become mindful of the importance of touch, to invite more of it into your life and to share some of these ideas with the people you love.
The reason that’s my goal is because what I want, more than anything, is peace. I want to live in a world where anger is met with empathy. I want our children to grow up in classrooms where confusion is met with true patience and kindness. And I want for our grief and fears to be met with the most heartfelt compassion.
Now, I don’t know about you, but that’s not what I see when I look around. Anyone who watches the news or even commutes on the LA freeways can see that an element of humanity and decency feels lost.
Just yesterday a driver raged at me, fists flying out the window, horn blaring, for no good reason. He couldn’t go anywhere if I moved up 2 feet. I was just as blocked as he was, with an endless string of cars in front of us. I’d done nothing wrong. He was just mad.
He clearly needed a hug.
As I look around, peace feels harder to come by every day, and I can’t stop thinking about that. There’s something else I think about a lot too - the connection between a preemie's health and touch.
Let’s talk about touch for a minute.
I come from a professional industry - skin care - where touch is integral with everything we do. The more I look around, the more I realize that, like a sense of peace, touch is largely missing from our lives.
I dove into the research to explore further - looking at social, cultural and health issues around touch. The more I learned, the more I realized that our lack of touch could be devastating to everything we hold dear.
Let me share some facts:
In India – and many places all over the world – men walk along holding hands as they swap stories. They sit with their arms draped around each other in casual conversation. They’re touching each other constantly. People all over the world connect with each other in a much more physical way than we do. This touch is a normal and vibrant part of their lives.
Most Americans who witness this behavior are surprised, even uncomfortable, and many think it is downright weird.
But, is it?
On a normal day in a café in France, studies show that friends will touch each other about 110 times in an hour. In Brazil, the number is even higher.
What about us? What’s your guess? I’ll give you a hint. You can show me with one hand.
Americans sitting in a cafe, chatting with a friend over lunch or coffee, might reach out and touch each other twice.
So what does all this mean? Why should we care?
Because the facts are that people who connect through touch have more health and joy than those who don’t. They have more compassion for others, they cooperate more, they feel less stressed. They have less anxiety. I imagine everyone here today knows a lot about anxiety.
There’s a direct correlation between physical touch and feelings of happiness, confidence, stability… and peace. By bringing more connection into our lives, by making touch a priority, we really could change the course of our future.
So, hopefully, now you believe me… that putting a focus on touch is important. But how? How does one go about doing that?
Not only is touch culturally awkward and largely socially unacceptable in our country, but we also have every sort of gear that puts distance between us and our children, and each other.
We use strollers so our bodies are free to do 500 things at once, we have solitary cribs often placed in their own sometimes lonely rooms. We’ve got car seats keeping our babies safe in the back seat. And Isolettes, saving their lives. By the time they’re old enough for solids, we might even be giving them their own personal pizzas.
I’m not saying these things are bad. In many cases, we’d call them the result of life-saving progress. But with all our progress, we’ve left something very important behind. We’re losing touch. And with the loss of touch, we lose connectedness. We lose our sense of peace.
The skin is a social organ. Physical touch is part of how we learn about empathy, compassion, patience. There's a hormonal and chemical cascade of physical events in our body that can only be activated through touch. These physical events - hormonal cascades - have the potential to create more joy and fulfillment in our lives. Without them, we are left with a painful void.
We need to fill in the void that’s created by all of our important safety gear, tools of convenience, progress and our social constructs. We need to be mindful about bringing touch back.
So, how? The first step in this solution is simply to recognize the problem. And the next is to find ways to bring touch back into our lives. Little ways are a great place to start. Hold hands, putt your arm around someone’s shoulder, give an extra high five today. Play footsies under the table.
In the case of preemies, all this talk of touch may not seem so easy to activate, and the truth is, it’s not. But preemies are literally the most in need of touch. More than any other humans on earth, premature babies (and their parents) need touch to survive and thrive.
As I worked with more and more preemie families over the years, I realized that touch isn’t only largely missing from their lives due to necessary equipment and social circumstances. For many parents, it is downright terrifying to touch their newborn preemies.
The more I learned, the more I realized that this is an addressable problem. We have an opportunity to provide more support, education, and encouragement to preemie families.
It was chance that dropped me into the skincare industry. And it was chance that first introduced me to supporting families with premature babies. But the decision to become an ambassador or champion of touch, and to embrace the mission of creating a more peaceful world through touch, that wasn’t chance.
I realized that I could use what I know about skin to bring more joy into the lives of the people I hold dear. By sharing in this mission with you, I believe we can help ease more of the pain, fear, and suffering of preemie families.
With that, I invite each and every one of you to become a champion of touch with me… to bring more touch into your life, elevate mindful touch as a priority in life, and to share some of these ideas with the people you love to elevate awareness and activate change.