A Memoir of a Mother’s Determination and Her Micro Preemie’s Struggle to Beat the Odds
Below is a guest post by preemie mom and writer/blogger Carrie Willard.
It’s been a busy year and a while since I shared a guest blog post and I’m so excited to share this one because I admire Carrie for many reasons.
I hope you enjoy it.
“My seventh child was a preemie. Unlike my first seven pregnancies and births, which were uneventful and natural, this one was traumatic right from the start. We experienced multiple threatened miscarriages, bleeding and finally a rupture of membranes (PPROM) at 21 weeks. There were weeks of bed rest and hospitalizations, culminating in an emergent C-section and 11 week NICU stay for my little one.
My son is now 2 and thriving. I’m finally healing from the anxiety and fear I felt during that time, and feeling like my old self. Only, I’m different. My preemie taught me a few things.
One – It’s ok to do nothing.
I’ve always been a productive person who struggled to sit still. Visiting my tiny baby in NICU was an exercise in patience and stillness. It took nurses up to 45 minutes, sometimes longer if they were busy, to untangle my son’s leads and place him down the front of my shirt for kangaroo care. Then I dare not move lest his alarms begin blaring. Sitting and holding my son and bonding with him, giving him the gift of my presence and savoring his, was the most important thing I did all day, though it looked like nothing.
Two – Boundaries are good.
I gained a new appreciation for boundaries as I watched the NICU nurses carefully strap my sweet-potato sized newborn into a “snuggly” in his isolette, keeping him still and giving him a feeling of stability and safety. As his tiny legs kicked against the boundaries and found a wall of resistance, he began to learn what was him, and what was not him. The locked doors of the NICU, visitor rules and the hand-washing rituals also provided boundaries for well-being of its inhabitants.
Three – Patience – a virtue learned through adversity.
The mom of a preemie is told no over and over again. No, you can’t get out of bed. No, you can’t see your baby yet. No, you can’t hold your baby yet. No, you can’t put the baby to your breast. Those final days and weeks as your preemie looks like a “normal” full-term newborn are torturous. Your longing to have your baby home is palpable, but it’s not safe for your child to leave the hospital yet. Just when I thought I could wait no longer, I got a fresh length of patience handed to me, like a few more feet of rope.
Four – it’s ok to need help.
Early on in our NICU journey, recovering from a C-section, dizzy, exhausted and in pain, I would arrive into the NICU and collapse into the nearest nurse’s arms in a cascade of tears. It’s unlike me to show emotion in public, so this was not normal behavior for me. Struggling to bear up doesn’t mean you’re not strong. It means you need help. And that’s ok. Without the help of my husband, my older children, my friends, family and worship community, I wouldn’t have survived the experience as well as I did.
Five – Let go of unrealistic expectations and just do your best.
One of the most difficult things I had to accept about my son’s birth was the fact that he needed supplemental formula to gain weight. As a die-hard lactivist and former breastfeeding counselor, I knew what I was doing when it came to breastfeeding. My body may have betrayed my son by not keeping him in my womb for 40 weeks, but by golly I was going to nurse my baby! After a difficult period in which I experienced hot anger, shame and grief, I accepted a new normal. When I decided it was ok to give my son formula because he needed it, I felt peace. I used a Lact-Aid supplement to protect my milk supply and so my son would not develop a preference for bottles. (And I’m happy to report that he is still nursing at 2, and is long weaned from supplemental formula, something that makes me very proud!)
And finally, I come to the sixth point: Mothering is not all about me.
I didn’t want to give birth prematurely. I didn’t want to have to leave my son day after day in the NICU. I didn’t want the nightmares, the anxiety, the post-traumatic stress, the intense shame, the anger, the interruption of bonding with my newborn, the formula, the grieving of normal. But I don’t get to choose. Mothering is about holding a child’s hand as they walk down their path. It’s not about me.”
Carrie Willard is a homeschooling mom of 7 curious kiddos. She encourages moms to make time for their passions, goals and dreams during the busy child-rearing years at http://www.CarrieWillard.com/maketimeforyou
Check her out online!
Thanks for reading.