When I think of motherhood, I think of it being a beautiful, yet scary adventure. For many women it’s a club that everyone wants to join, by any means necessary. Becoming a preemie mom was a club I got initiated in without signing up. During my first pregnancy, I tried to prepare as best as possible by following all of the “first mom rules.” I signed up for the hospital tour, started the baby registry early, read articles and more. I was in full preparation for my unborn baby when I was hit with the biggest curve ball. I went into preterm labor at 21 weeks and ultimately delivered at 22 weeks 6 days. I hadn’t prepared to become a preemie mom. In the days leading up to giving birth to my son, the NICU team came and spoke to my family and me. They discussed the risk of having a micro-preemie and what that could potentially mean for us.
My OB encouraged us to do comfort care and “try again later.” To say my world was shaken would be a complete understatement. When I told the Doctors to save my son no matter what the risk or challenges ahead, I really didn’t know what I was getting us into. While the risks were a bit scary, I knew in my heart that my baby boy deserved a fighting chance. I quickly discovered that becoming a NICU mom would take courage that up until this point had never fully been tapped into.
Prior to Jaxson’s birth I had no real knowledge of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I had no idea of the feelings, smells and sounds that would dominate our life over the course of 119 days.
10 things I wish I had known before becoming a preemie mom
- The NICU is a roller coaster. I wish I would’ve known that the swing of emotions I dealt with were absolutely normal. One minute I was happy and then sometimes sad or anxious. For parents, the NICU is an emotional roller coaster from day to day. Sometimes I thought I was going crazy, but I came to know that it was all just a part of the process.
- Providing breast milk for my baby was a true labor of love. I pumped every 3 hours around the clock. I was a slave to my pump for 6 months, and it wasn’t easy. Our breastfeeding relationship was different than I imagined it be; however, I embraced it and did what was best for my son.
- Self care is important! In the midst of going back and forth to the NICU and having sleepless nights taking care of yourself is VERY important. Be kind to yourself! Don’t beat yourself up over your situation. And remember, an empty cup can’t be poured!
- Parent or RN? We learned a massive amount of medical jargon. It’s one thing to watch Grey’s Anatomy and think you know a little something! Having your baby in the NICU will force you to learn things you wish you never knew. At the end of my son’s four month NICU stay, my husband and I felt like RNs due to the amount of medical information we knew. It was a balance to be mom and tend to his medical needs once home.
- Adjusting. Having a preemie child was not the ideal situation, but we learned to adjust and adapt to a new normal.
- Faith. In the NICU nothing is black or white, and some days were completely hard and overwhelming. On these days, thinking about how far we had come helped. Our faith was a huge part of how we made it through the tough times.
- Love. Through the tubes and wires, seeing our little one grow changed my perspective. There’s something special about the fragility of life that is truly humbling. I experienced love on a level I never knew before.
Bonding takes time. Due to my son’s health situation, holding or touching was sometimes restricted, which can make it hard to initially bond with your baby. Fear may creep in causing you to think that your baby won’t know you or connect with you but that’s not true. Your baby will know you, and the bond shared will be one that is unbreakable.
- Miracles. Despite our baby’s rough start, and being given a 20% chance of survival, he beat the odds! We saw first hand what a miracle looked like. Jaxson is strong, healthy and is continuously thriving. So remember, there’s always a chance that your baby’s outcome will be greater than expected.
- Advocacy. Be your baby’s number one advocate. After all, you know them best!