Christmas with a Preemie: Expectations vs. Reality

December 9, 2015

It was our first Christmas as a family of four. As the end of October neared, I wondered if we would all be in the same place. Our daughter Haley was born at 29 weeks in September, and we knew right from the start she might not be home before Christmas. Because I am a big Christmas person, I just love the family time and all the memories we make, the cookies, and the music. I wanted so badly to be able to celebrate together. I worried if she did make it home, what would that mean for the rest of us?  I definitely had a lot of fears and what ifs in my head!

Finally all together for Christmas!

Finally all together for Christmas!

We were extremely fortunate that year. Haley came home at the very end of October. She was a rockstar in the NICU. I had my family of four all under one roof for my favorite holiday of the year. So you must think I was thrilled right? But I was full of mixed emotions.

I loved having Haley home. Unfortunately it was cold, flu, and – the scariest – RSV season. That meant the large family gatherings had to be without us. It meant not seeing quite a few family members we enjoy seeing during the holiday season. It meant staying at home a lot.

Haley's first Christmas

Haley’s first Christmas

I love visitors. I love people coming to visit after we have a baby. I love having family over for different holidays. But all of that was very risky with our tiny new family member. We could not let her get sick. I did not want her back in the hospital! I knew I had to give up these things to protect Haley.

When I thought about our first Christmas together, I didn’t imagine worrying about germs or staying home all the time. So when this was our reality, it was hard to let go of what I imagined. Do you want to know what made it easier? Every time I looked at my precious baby I remembered why our Christmas was different. She was so worth everything we did differently.

Having a preemie around the holidays does mean things will be different than you might be used to. It doesn’t mean it will be bad. Enjoy the quiet moments together. If you are lucky to be home, celebrate that. Don’t beat yourself down if you feel left out or miss large family gatherings or if you’re a little sad you can’t get your baby’s picture taken with Santa. You’re allowed to feel upset; just don’t let it get you get you down. Don’t forget about how lucky you are that your baby is doing well and is with you.