Preemie mothers, or mothers with complicated pregnancies, are in a group of our own. Someone who’s had a normal pregnancy and was able to bring home their baby right away will never understand what it’s like to leave a part of yourself at the hospital, stare at your empty belly in the mirror and cry yourself to sleep at night, just waiting to bring your baby home (which feels like it will never happen).
The only thing a preemie mommy can do is hope for the best and visit every day, sitting by the closed-off isolette, hoping that one of the nurses will tell you that it’s okay to hold your own child. We don’t get the luxury of feeding our own children (that’s done through a nasal tube), holding them (they need to sleep or have too many tubes/monitors), or doing the other bazillion things new mother’s take for granted. When Vaughan was first in the NICU his diapers needed to be weighed, so we weren’t even allowed to do that! I remember being ecstatic the day I got to change my first diaper!
Also, when new parents get to bring their child home and show them off? We get to have 2 people per bedside at a time, and that’s including parents. When grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc come to visit one parent has to leave and visitors need to come in one at a time. If they want to visit when you’re away then you have to leave instructions and permission with the nurse or they will be turned away at the door. Cousins and younger children were left out because children under 16 aren’t allowed to visit unless they are a brother or sister. Even when we got home visitors were limited since preemies are very fragile and a simple cold can send you right back to the ER. These were just some of the numerous frustrations we experienced last year while waiting to bring our baby home!
Now, one thing that has really gotten me going since leaving the hospital are 4 simple words. Being the age that I am, suddenly my friends, coworkers and acquaintances are all on baby making missions! Which is fabulous and I love sneaking peeks at all those angelic faces on Facebook. How can you not be cheerful when staring at a goobery baby face?
However, I’m not sure whether it’s lack of sleep or the general uncomfortableness that pregnant women feel but when, after being asked about my own birth experience, the ‘mother-to-be’ starts her sentence with ‘You’re so lucky that…’ and follows it up with something about how fat they are, uncomfortable, how painful it is to give birth to a full term baby, that I got time to recover at home before ‘dealing’ with a baby, etc. my head feels like it’s going to explode.
My immediate response is “Really? Are you kidding me?” followed by a flash of near rage that starts in my chest and quickly makes it’s way to my vocal cords. I usually try to stop myself from saying anything, but I practically choke on it let me tell you. As I said…a ‘normal’ Mommy will never understand and that’s why I’m so grateful for the preemie mommies I met while Vaughan was hospitalized.
To those ‘You’re so lucky that’ Mommies out there, let me tell you…lucky is not the word that comes to mind when I think about my pregnancy, labour and birth experiences. We were not lucky that Vaughan weighed just under 3 lbs at birth, had to be fed through a tube, our time spent with him was dictated by hospital visiting hours, grandparents weren’t allowed to visit, we couldn’t attend any playgroups for fear of him getting sick, breastfeeding didn’t work for us, etc. I could name a million challenges we had to overcome as preemie parents and not one of them is a ‘good thing’! I would have given anything to have been the size of a house, and delivered a chubby, wrinkled baby…so don’t tell me how miserable it is to be 37 weeks pregnant and praying for it to be over already! And end vent.
I guess the one thing that I feel from my pregnancy and birth experience is that we were robbed. We never got to experience the ‘whole’ pregnancy, the excitement of a full term birth with family anxiously waiting in the waiting room, or the ‘post delivery’ snuggle and pictures. Small things I know, and it’s hard to justify being disappointed when we have so many great memories that we’ve made since then, but it definitely isn’t what you picture when you’re having a baby, and my inner toddler is stamping it’s foot, proclaiming that ‘it isn’t fair!’.
My message to other mommies is simply this, don’t take anything for granted with your pregnancy and delivery, prepare for any contingency and relish each moment you can, because not everyone is so lucky!! When dealing with anyone who has experience pre-term labour or infant loss, never ever tell them how lucky they are! Trust me they’d give anything to trade places with you and be elbow deep in smelly diapers and spitup, with a 9lb newborn on their flabby, stretch-marked hip, sleepless nights and all.
Now on the other side I do need to mention that we have been extremely blessed that our situation worked out as well as it did. There are parents who aren’t so lucky and experienced loss or developmental challenges with their little miracles. Besides being a small kiddo, Vaughan is extremely healthy and above his age for developmental milestones. We did also have the luxury of picking the nurses brains for tips on all things baby, from toys, clothing, burping and bathing techniques, all of which we are more than willing to share! Being a first time parent is mind-boggling enough as it is without wondering what on earth will coax a burp from your fussy baby at 4am!