A Mother’s Approach to the NICU

The Gift of Life from time to time has guest bloggers and real life stories.  Today we have a story by Danielle, the mom of a preemie.  Take a moment to read Danielle’s journey through the preterm birth of her baby in her own words.

My story. I’ve been asked a time or two to write it, but find it really difficult to think about that time. Those times. Two of them. No, my story isn’t as bad as some and my kids are doing quite well, but it still leaves its mark. Six years on and I still wonder if I will ever approach birthday time without flashbacks of all the beeping of monitors, frantic wishes for another breath, tears at yet another bad day.

I would have been fine without kids. I had been told by various medical professionals that pregnancy was unlikely anyway. Yet, there I was, staring at two pink lines. A few weeks later, the doctor said “it isn’t viable.” He told us to go home and wait for a miscarriage. That was how we spent Christmas and New Year’s. At 27 weeks (after he admitted it “might” be viable), he told me I had to go to the hospital because my blood pressure was too high. A few days later, a nurse sheepishly handed me a pamphlet about living wills and scurried away. I found out that the doctor told my husband I had a 50% chance of surviving and he wouldn’t even put a number on our daughter. Next month she will be 6.

You know all those posts about bonding with your baby and oh-so-sweet labor stories? Ya, none of that. I didn’t want to see her. She looked like an alien monkey. I didn’t want to get out of bed. It hurt. It physically hurt and the guilt of not keeping her healthy and safe emotionally hurt. The poor nurse – I was so angry at yet another stick of my 1lb 12oz baby’s poor, bruised foot. The surgeon hovered and threw out acronyms like NEC. Yet, 56 days later Willow passed her car seat test and came home.

She rushed through milestones like she rushed through pregnancy. Today, she struggles a bit with ADHD and SPD, but races through each day with more exuberance than I know how to handle. She is my sunshine.

My second pregnancy lasted 32 weeks. I think stress played a big factor in that one. Ocean made it to 4lbs 7oz and only 3 weeks in the NICU. We felt like pros, waving away explanations of the process. Still, the hour drive each way, every day took its toll on both our strength and our finances. Ocean has a dairy allergy, is more susceptible to seasonal allergy issues, and has some anxiety-related issues, but nothing major. She will be 4 in July.

We are lucky. My daughters lived and so did I. They didn’t come home with tubes or machines or scars from surgeries. Yet, I still check every night to see if they are breathing. I still worry and Google every learning issue. I wonder how they will do through their own reproductive journey. They are beautiful and happy. So why does is it so painful to remember? Why is it so hard to crochet preemie hats without crying? PTSD, maybe, although I feel selfish for my feelings considering some friends had preemies who didn’t make it.

The lesson here is this: no matter how much time you have to spend “parenting” and no matter someone else’s experience, you are still you with feelings and experiences that deserve recognition. There was no time for that in the NICU or when we brought the tiny babies home. Even now, a minute to complete a thought is so rare. Only recently – almost 6 years after – did I start to remember more of the stress. Only with recognition, support, and patience was I able to acknowledge all the pain, anger, depression, and fear and morph into a healthier, more peaceful individual. A better parent, a better spouse, a better me. I read posts and comments by older moms of preemies now grown and they talk about it like it was nothing, completely over-shadowed by a lifetime of great memories. I made it this far. So will you.

 

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