Dear Preemie Momma,
As I see you today, you are hurrying out of your car to make your way to the NICU. Your heart is pounding and your mind is racing today. You are full of anticipation and joy to spend time with your baby, who, like many babies there, came into this world far too soon.
As you enter the NICU, you instantaneously go to the washing station to clean your hands, as you fear that any germs you brought from the outside may harm you baby. You rush down the hall and get to your baby’s isolette and talk to the day nurse who gets you up to speed with the day’s events.
You worry at every moment when those numbers on the monitor go up, or down. You jump at any moment when your cell rings, or when the nurse says, “the doctor would like to talk to you today about….” I see the worry in your eyes. I see both the hesitation and the hope that things will be alright. You fear the unknown. As everyone there tells you, life in the NICU is one step forward, two steps back.
I also see you standing by your baby’s isolette, admiring your baby and watching them grow from the outside. I see all the love that overcomes you when you look into your little baby, fighting for their life. Despite all the fear and darkness, you do believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and trust me, you will get there soon. There may be obstacles to get there- such as oral feeds and weight gain, but eventually your baby will get there.
Every moment in the NICU is a special one. You record every moment on your smartphone. Your baby book is filled with different “firsts:” First kangaroo cuddle, first bath, first day off of CPAP and so on. I see you paying diligent attention to the nurse who teaches you how to take your baby’s temperature and how to administer medications and vitamins. You’re already ahead of the game!
As time passes on and your baby continues to develop and grow, the final piece of the puzzle falls into place: oral feeds. Your baby has taken off without any issue! The doctor is giving your baby the green light to go home. As discharge day approaches, you are busy cleaning your house and making sure that everything is perfect for your little one as they deserve it after a long hospital stay.
However, I must warn you there is a scary part. When you come home, there will be no more monitors. No more doctors, no more nurses to help or dieticians to asses feeds. You are all on your own. But that is okay! Remember you got this. Remember your medical team would not send your baby home if they weren’t 100% ready. You can do this and remember you will do an amazing job because of all the prep you were given during your hospital stay. It’s all on you now.
I will warn you- you will worry. You will worry a lot. You will get scared of things that wouldn’t normally scare you, like a cold for starters. You will start doing things that most people don’t typically do when they bring a new born home. You’ll start screening all your visitors to make sure no one is ill. I hate to remind you, but your baby is still vulnerable for some time. During winter, you may be in lockdown to avoid RSV season. But that is okay. Don’t feel like you are offending anyone. Remember, you are protecting your baby. Be prepared for remarks, I am sure of this. But don’t let it bother you, as remember, no one knows really what your little family went through. Even those with the best of intentions may say something that will hurt. My only advice is to forgive them.
At times, you will feel left out from things that some people take for granted, like playdates or even talking about certain milestones. You may find yourself falling into a habit of trying to explain to a stranger “corrected” versus “actual” age, or how many millilitres your baby takes in a feed. For a while this will happen, and that is okay.
Sometimes, you may find yourself feeling frustrated or angry. You may feel as if you were robbed of so many things such as bringing your child home after delivery or having a baby shower while still pregnant. You may find yourself sometimes crying about these things and I wanted to tell you that is okay. Its okay to grieve what you and your child lost. But don’t look at it as a loss, look at it as a different beginning to the story of your little family.
And although these things may hurt and sometimes you may feel alone, know that you are not. Know that there are so many others born before your child, who have gone on to do so well in their lives. Know that there is a support network of parents of premature children all over the world that you can lean on, to talk to, to laugh and share stories with.
Despite all the ups and downs that you have been through, I see you right now, stronger than ever and being an amazing parent to that beautiful, strong child. That is you, preemie momma. You can do this.
From one preemie momma to another.