I’ve felt it and said it a few times and if you’re the mother of a premature child, you may have thought the same too. When my premature children were born, I felt as though I had been robbed of the chance to have a “normal” pregnancy and delivery. I didn’t experience the magical gift of having my newborn child laid on my chest so we could enjoy each other’s company and take in my new reality as a mother. Instead, I was in the situation of recovering in a labour and delivery room, removed from my firstborn child who was in some mysterious nursery that I could not see, where he was being assessed, poked, and prodded because he was born quite early.
He was born suddenly and only seven minutes before my first Mother’s Day, 2008. It was not how I imagined my first Mother’s Day! He wasn’t due for about another 9 weeks. I was thankful to see my mother and mother-in-law arrive shortly after his arrival. My own mother, a paediatric nurse, who lives out of town and was at work when my husband sent out the alert that baby had arrived, came immediately. I could just imagine her booting up the highway as fast as humanly possible.
During this experience, six years ago, a new understanding of the meaning of “a mother’s love” struck me to the core. Here I was, a brand new mom with the most immense feeling of love for this tiny little person I had yet to hold and there were my own mother and mother-in-law by my side as soon as my husband made the call. They were busy getting me comfortable, suggesting I rest, fluffing my pillows, and running for drinks of water. My mother had stopped for food for me and my husband before getting to the hospital. Her nursing kicked in, knowing that I needed to keep up my fluids, eat and have enough energy to get through what she knew would be a challenging time. There was nothing our mothers wouldn’t do for me or my husband in our crazy time of need.
In the weeks to follow, my mother and mother-in-law would do the runs back and forth to the hospital whenever they could. My mother balanced her full time job and free time by my son’s bedside. She supported me while I learned to breastfeed and we sat together making up songs and chants to the rhythm of the breast pump… you know, the type of things all mothers and daughters do together! I saw these two ladies in a different light after this experience. They taught me about strength, determination, and courage.
Then there’s my grandmother. She stands a full 4’10” tall, she had 5 children of her own and was also born early, weighing in at 2 Lbs. As she lives too far away for visits, I would touch base with her a few times by phone. She was a voice of reason, calm and collected when I described how things were going with her premature great-grandson. She reminded me of her own birth experience; kept alive by the warmth of the coals in the kitchen’s stove with a shoebox for a bed. If she could do it with no medical intervention, then she was positive he could make it through, too. She gave me hope.
These wonderful ladies taught me the true meaning of a mother’s love. Their love and support enveloped our new family of three and gave us the strength and motivation to get through the NICU and on to happier times.
It is these three ladies I celebrate each and every day.
Happy Mother’s Day to the moms making their way through the NICU; to the moms who have angels watching over them; and to the wonderful grand and great-grandmothers, who support us through our unique parenting journeys.