Mother’s Day will soon be here – a time to celebrate and honor mothers and motherhood – a time to reflect on the influence our mothers (or a significant maternal figure) had in our lives. And hopefully, a time where we, as moms are encouraged to relax and enjoy a little pampering.
For moms with a baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), Mother’s Day can be bitter sweet. No woman plans or expects to begin her journey as a mom this way! But for more than 500,000 moms each year, their baby arrives too soon and too small, and must be whisked away to be cared for in a NICU.
I wrestled with my role as a mom for many months following the preterm birth of my son at 24 weeks gestation. (Read my full story with before and after photos.) I felt more like a bystander than his mother because I was unable to hold him, feed him or participate in his complicated medical care. I was ashamed because I found the first photos of him to be terrifying and disconcerting. I was plagued with guilt for “failing” to carry him to term. I desperately just wanted to start over. I was not sure I could handle being the mom of such a medically fragile child.
For years I kept these feelings of guilt and shame to myself. What kind of mother would people think I was if I admitted that I did not feel an immediate bond with my own baby? It was not until I read the transcript for the new book entitled, Preemie: Lessons in Love, Life and Motherhood, written by preemie mom, Kasey Mathews, that I fully accepted the emotions I felt after Jackson’s early birth and understood that they were normal. With each page of the book I found myself shaking my head in understanding and wiping away tears of gratitude for the courage of the author to allow herself to be so vulnerable and voice her darkest secrets.
I scribbled notes in the margins. I underlined sentences, phrases and full paragraphs, and on page after page I found myself writing, “Yes! That is exactly how I felt.” I could not put the book down and I could not wait to meet the author – who felt like a long lost sister.
Kasey and I have become fast friends. It has been my honor to accompany her on the long journey of her book’s publication – from transcript rewrites, to finding the perfect publisher and finalizing the front cover. I absolutely cannot wait for the book to hit the shelves because this book about prematurity goes beyond the story of a tiny baby overcoming tremendous medical challenges – this book is about the journey of the mom of a preemie. “Preemie” beautifully chronicles the emotional, physical and psychological challenges that parents of preemies face. And most importantly, it illustrates the transformational power of allowing ourselves to be vulnerable while stepping up and doing more than we ever thought possible.
Hand to Hold will be participating in many Mother’s Day celebrations at local NICUs in the coming weeks. As our gift to these special moms, Hand to Hold will provide each mom with a copy of Preemie: Lessons in Love, Life and Motherhood along with a promise to be there with them through their NICU journey and beyond. Kasey wrote her book because during her daughter’s NICU stay and for years that followed, she longed for the comfort, compassion and true understanding that could be given only by another parent who had walked in her shoes. Together we hope to comfort, inspire and empower moms who so desperately need a Hand to Hold.
To all moms – those with babies in the NICU, now at home, or in the hand’s of God – many blessings on Mother’s Day and always.
Order your copy of Preemie: Lessons in Love, Life and Motherhood, which will be available May 29, 2012.