To the Preemie Mom Who Is Expecting Again
I know you’re nervous. I know the minute you saw that double pink line that your heart leapt into your throat. I also know that you wish your heart had only done so with joy, but you had to admit that it was also in fear.
“What if it happens again?” you ask yourself.
Before you had your first preemie, the possibility of having a baby early might have barely been on your worry radar. As the end of your first trimester approached, you could breathe a little more easily. When your blood work came back normal, you relaxed even more. Maybe while browsing for baby clothes, you gently picked up a preemie outfit and thought, “How tiny! How cute!” but quickly put it back because you knew there was no way you would ever need something so small. Maybe you didn’t notice your viability date pass. Maybe you took your hospital tour early, like I did, and barely peeked in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) door, simultaneously admiring the strength of those inside and feeling grateful that you would never need to be that strong.
This time is different. This time, you have sat in a hospital bed while a neonatologist told you your child’s chances of survival and nurses patted your arm with pity in their eyes. You have had your baby snatched from your arms as monitors blared and his lips turned blue. You have listened to a semi-circle of doctors discuss how to keep your baby alive for one more day, or hour or minute.
It’s OK to be scared. It’s OK to feel like you couldn’t make it through another round in the ring with prematurity. But there’s something I want you to know:
You got this.
I don’t know what you will face this time. I can’t tell you that it won’t happen again. Oh, how I wish I could. I can’t even tell you that if it does happen again, it will be easier this time. If there is one thing we know about our babies, it’s that they don’t play by the rules, do they?
I don’t know what’s going to happen. What I do know is that you are strong.
You have fallen in love with your baby through thick plastic walls.
You have changed an impossibly small diaper on an impossibly small person through the impossibly small holes of an isolette.
You have lain in a hospital bed with an empty womb and empty arms while listening to the sounds of new mother happiness all around you.
You have washed your hands so much that they cracked and bled, all just to touch your little one.
You have slept curled up in cramped hospital recliners and mastered the hospital sink bath.
You have learned medical terminology, procedures and equipment in a series of 10-second crash courses as doctors and nurses and therapists hurled information toward you at 100 m.p.h.
You know how to make a meal out of six quarters and one vending machine.
You can snap up a sleeper around heart monitors and IVs. You can swaddle without disturbing a PICC line.
You have done all this while healing from a birth that hurt in more ways than one.
And — regardless of the outcome — it really, really sucked, didn’t it? Nothing can change how much it sucked. But you were there and you were strong and you did what you had to do.
I hope so much that you never have to be that strong again. But if you do, I know that you will.
Yes, it could happen again or you may face a completely new challenge. Yes, you will be scared and angry. No, it isn’t fair at all. You may fall apart a little bit, and that’s OK. I did.
But I also know you will wipe away your tears. You will get up out of that hospital bed. You will make your way back into that NICU.
You will take care of your baby in whatever way he needs you. Because you are a preemie mama and that is just what we do.
You are strong.
You got this.
A mama who has been there… twice.