As a first time mom (and planner by nature), I spent a great deal of time during my pregnancy thinking about all the “first’s” that were to come. I couldn’t wait to celebrate with friends and family at baby showers, pick out the perfect going home outfit and figure out where we would have newborn photos done.
When our pregnancy suddenly began to fall apart and we found ourselves hospitalized at 26 weeks, I began to feel sad over all “first’s” we would miss. Sitting in the hospital that week I had a lot of time to think.
During that week, a friend posted a photo of their new baby on social media, it was shortly after birth and their very first family photo. The tears began to flow as I realized it would be weeks before we had any type of family photo. In that moment I made a decision. A decision to celebrate the things that were to come – no matter how big or small.
It was a week later I posted our first family photo. Yes, there was a massive incubator that held our 1lb 15oz baby, who we still had not held, but it was our first photo as a family.
Our daughter’s birth wasn’t what we had planned for or dreamed it would be, but it was our birth – our story.
There’s a saying that the NICU is “two steps back, one step forward”. During our 12 week stay it was the “one step forwards” that kept us going.
Here are some things we celebrated during those 12 weeks.
• The weight club: We had a chart in our room that marked which club we were part of (2lb, 3lb, 4lb, etc)
• First Bath
• Wearing clothes
• Monthly photos
• Lowering and eventually coming off of oxygen support
• Transitioning to different isolettes and finally an open crib
• Newborn photos
As I look back over the time we spent in the NICU, I realize that we did all the things our friends did with their babies. But it was sweeter, it was long awaited and it was special. We savored the day we dressed her for the first time – it happened to be my 30th birthday! We invited a friend in to take newborn photos when she was eight days old. I posted photos and updates on social media that celebrated each milestone we hit during those 84 days.
Every Monday we have a “Milestone Monday” post in our local NICU Parent Group. I always say it doesn’t matter how big or small the accomplishment is, it is still something to be celebrated. Often while in the NICU it is the tiniest of accomplishments that keeps you fighting another day. Through our journey with our micropreemie I’ve learned that the milestones are sweeter, even the smallest are more noticed because there was a day we wondered if we would ever see it.
Our biggest celebration comes on July 25th each year. That is the day we left the NICU for the final time and for the first time with our baby. This day each year is set aside as a family day. It is a fun day with lots of good memories. While we celebrate her birthday each year and make it fun for her, it is a hard day for us. Family Day gives us a day that we all celebrate the happy memories of becoming a family together in our home for the very first time!
So, what are you celebrating? No matter how big or small – it is worth celebrating!