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6 Things to Know About Being a Preemie Mom

1. People say we are so strong. But when you think about it, what other choice do we have?

Crumbling under the pressure isn’t really an option, even when it feels like hell. Through exhaustion, tears, fears, pumping — we keep going for our little ones. You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only option.

Allow us to let our guard down, be an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on — sometimes this small gesture goes a long way. Being a preemie mom can feel lonely and push us into a place of isolation because we feel like no one understands our worries and concerns. Not to say that new moms don’t feel this, but a preemie mom feels the weight of worry in a different way. Seeing our baby hooked up to machines and tubes and wires is scary and even traumatic.

Preemie moms (and dads) are some of the world’s strongest people who by faith and perseverance press through. Seeing my son Jaxson fight to live daily strengthened me along with my faith and prayer. If you are friends or family to someone who has a baby in the NICU or even if baby is a preemie and at home, I suggest praying for them and their parents.

2. Caring for our premature child is not the same as caring for a full-term baby. 

Sometimes we may see a full-term baby and feel a little sting; this is normal. It doesn’t mean we harbor bitterness or resentment; it can just be a little hard to see, especially when it comes to development or seeing a healthy baby when ours may be on oxygen, or have a g-tube or other health challenges. We don’t mean any harm if we get emotional seeing a pregnant woman or maternity photos we may have never gotten a chance to take.

Also, with a premature baby additional needs are required — our baby may have lots of doctor’s appointments, specialist appointments, etc. Life is a bit more hectic and busy, so we may not have time to sit and talk on the phone or go hang out like we used to. Some days may be sad, while others are smooth. This doesn’t mean we don’t want to be your friend, but that the baby’s needs are great, and adjusting to life after the NICU takes time for everyone involved. Be there for us while we work our way through navigating the ins and outs of our journey.

3. Words hurt. People can say some really harsh things without even thinking before they speak.

Try to remember that our trigger points are a bit more sensitive. Don’t say, “At least you didn’t have to waddle around with a huge belly until nine months,” or “Well at least you get to sleep while they are in the NICU.” No. Just no.

Most people don’t realize that while you’re away from your child, you can actually lose more sleep. Each day our baby spends in hospital is hard. It’s a piece of our heart that’s missing. The emotional toll and anxiety makes it hard to really rest until your child is safe in your care.

Try to be patient with us. We may look strong on the outside, but parts of us are fragile.

4. When we are asked the question, “Why did you go into preterm labor?” it may open up an emotional wound.

Try not to ask this question. Some women know the cause, and many others do not. We know you are just being inquisitive or making small talk and probably don’t mean any harm, but this question can make us feel uncomfortable. This was (and still is) a question I was asked in the following months of Jaxson’s birth. Personally I didn’t like it and felt like it was invasive. In my case there hasn’t been a definitive reason as to why I went into preterm labor. Sometimes I, too, ask myself why. Needless to say, try to avoid asking this and let the mom open up to you about her experience on her own terms.

5. The journey to parenthood is different for everyone.

Birthing and raising a premature baby is life-changing in such a way that your friend, sister or daughter may have different views and values on life after going through it. Try to be mindful and understanding of this. For most preemie moms, the experience can be traumatic and may cause PTSD, anxiety, insomnia, nightmares and other things, which I myself experienced. Offer your support as best as you can and know that we
appreciate it.

6. Our baby coming home may mean we’re overprotective and cautious about practically everything.

We are terrified of germs 10 times more due to our baby’s immune system. Washing hands, changing our clothes once we come from outside, using hand sanitizer and sometimes avoiding public places is part of the package. Because of our baby’s prematurity, they are susceptible to getting sick easier and possibly have to be admitted to the hospital. We don’t want that, so if we are out and someone coughs around our baby, you might get a side eye while we work our way to the other side of the room.

If you are a preemie mom and reading this, please know I’m cheering for you. I celebrate you today and am proud of you. Hang in there when the times get tough, and if you need someone to walk this road with you, I’m here for you.

Thank you to all the people who have personally supported my family. We appreciate every prayer and good word spoken over our life and the life of Jaxson. It takes a village to raise a child, and we are blessed to have ours.

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