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Dealing With the Sadness That Can Come After Your Baby’s Premature Birth

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A feeling of sadness can be a normal response to trauma, loss, or an unexpected event. It can also be experienced by the loss of expectation of what you thought something was going to be like.

For some parents, our birth stories were rewritten due to our baby being born prematurely. Instead of hearing our baby cry and having him or her placed on our chest to experience skin-on-skin contact, we watched as they were immediately whisked away to the NICU. What we expected to be a beautiful and glorious moment was overshadowed by fear, uncertainty, anxiety and so much more. 

People may say, “Well your baby made it and is fighting, so why are you sad?” This is such a complex answer, and unless one walks through the NICU experience, it may be hard to understand. Here are a few things to consider:

A man holding a baby born prematurely on his chest

The Birth Experience

My birth experience was very different than I had imagined. Once my premature labor began and could no longer be controlled, I went through 10 hours of painful contractions. My son Jaxson’s head was in position as my bag was bulging, and I was leaking amniotic fluid. At the tenth hour, the pain became unbearable and I was given an epidural. A few minutes after it was administered, he flipped into a breech position and started getting distressed. For the best chance of saving him, I was rushed down the hall to the operating room for an emergency C-section. This definitely was not my ideal plan. I did tell my OB to do whatever it took to save my son. I just didn’t know how quickly our condition would change and cause for an emergency intervention.


I didn’t know too much about the NICU prior to my son being admitted there. I knew the basics, but experiencing it firsthand was something I could have never imagined I would go through. What I experienced was the constant struggle of “feeling like a mom” and being able to perform motherly duties. Jaxson was critical, and we weren’t able to hold him for 28 days. I felt robbed of being able to immediately bond with him and comfort him. I had to ask permission to touch my own son. 

My options were limited in regards to what I could do for him. My role as a parent was limited. I pumped around the clock, prayed and showed up every day to be by his bedside — sometimes just staring, other times assisting with his cares that took place every three hours. There were times I felt guilty and wished I could trade places. My heart hurt seeing him in his isolette with tubes and wires. For the first four months of his life, I could not rock him to sleep every night or see his face first thing in the morning.

Life After Giving Birth

I gave birth to Jaxson on a Saturday, and I was discharged on Wednesday. By far one of the hardest things I had to do was leave my baby at the hospital while I went home to recover. We didn’t get the opportunity to come home as a family right away. My heart hurt. I’d carried this precious baby, and I had to trust that he was being taken care of by someone else while I wasn’t there. To say this was hard is putting it lightly.

It would take 119 days before we were able to leave the hospital as a family of three. There were days I would leave the hospital and see a new father running to get the car while the mother of his child waited patiently in a wheelchair holding their new bundle of joy. The pain was indescribable.

A man holding a baby born prematurely on his chest, the baby wrapped in a white blanket with "Jaxson" written on it in various fonts

Home Sweet Home

We finally had the opportunity to bring our son home. Unfortunately, not all babies come home from the NICU. Adjusting to life after the NICU can be a unique experience. The baby may have endured many medical challenges, and some are often sent home with medical equipment. Jaxson was discharged with oxygen, a pulse ox and four medications. So our “home sweet home” definitely looked different than what we had imagined.

My sadness came in different waves; certain things could trigger it, like seeing a pregnant woman or if I came across a pregnant woman complaining about being pregnant for so long and wishing her baby would hurry up and come. With time, prayer and focusing on my baby and all of the goodness that did come with him helped me to change my perspective and really deal with what I felt. I combated the sadness head on and refused to wallow in it. I am grateful for what I have gained.

Things to Know

  • Sadness is such a tricky emotion and can look like so many different things. It can hit you out of nowhere and almost stop you in your tracks.
  • Everyone has a different experience, and each journey carries its own struggles.
  • There isn’t one way to feel sad. But allow yourself to express the emotion instead of holding onto it or neglecting it. Also, everyone’s feelings are valid, whether or not we can connect to them or relate. I just hope that at the end of the day, we extend compassion and grace to one another, for no one truly knows what it’s like to walk in the other person’s shoes.
  • Surrounding yourself with positive people with good intentions can help you. Healing does happen. It won’t happen overnight, and this may take time. Seeking professional help may be the answer.
  • Feeling sad doesn’t make you weak.

How do you cope with any overwhelming feelings you might experience?

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Originally published: October 14, 2016
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