RSV. Influenza. Back-to-school germs. And now… Enterovirus. If you’re anything like me, those things scare you to no end. What if your newly released NICU baby gets sick? What if your now 1-year-old doesn’t qualify for Synagis any longer? What if you send them to preschool and that inevitable first cold sends them to the hospital?
That last question is the one that’s currently keeping me up at night. After 78 and 111 days in the NICU, Tenley and Braden came home. Most of the next two years were spent in lockdown mode as we battled the lasting effects of their 27-week emergency birth from infection. With the added complication of losing their triplet brother at 49 days old and suffering from PTSD, this mama was super sensitive and didn’t take any chances.
Of course, I couldn’t keep them in a bubble forever, and it was time to let them be “normal” kids. Truth is, even though we did the lockdown thing, they still got sick. Braden still got H1N1 last Christmas, even with all of our precautions. (And yes, I freaked out.) So, how was I supposed to overcome that fear of letting them out into a scary, germ-filled world?
For me, it meant putting things into perspective.
If I kept them at home, would they stay healthy? Not necessarily. That was proven in the two prior years. Because they were both preemies, would one getting sick mean added stress because the other would also get sick? No! In fact, Braden and I were the only ones who were hit hard by the flu. Tenley barely even took a hit. And usually, even now, that is how it goes. That actually makes me feel good and reminds me that yes, they are both preemies, but there is no guaranteed mold or outline for how a preemie will turn out; not their height, immune system, future outcome, etc.
It meant doing some research.
What exactly was out there? How did these illnesses spread? And what could I do to prevent them? Hand to Hold has a great resource on some of the current viruses out there, including Enterovirus. While the media may play up the scariness of a situation, staying levelheaded and knowing the facts can help you stay calm.
It also meant being proactive.
I keep my kids up-to-date on their vaccines, they get a flu shot each year, we keep our regular check-ups and are highly in tune with their specialists and therapists. We take our vitamins, stay on top of our health through the use of essential oils, try to keep our stress levels down (ha!), and be careful about who we’re around. We wash our hands and use hand sanitizer (although, you might find that we don’t always adhere to the 5-second rule when it comes to our kids). We are doing everything we can – and that’s all we can do.
It meant holding onto my faith and seeing a counselor (and eating a lot of cupcakes).
Every one copes differently, and for me, my faith helps me to deal with the anxiety of having a preemie. But that didn’t mean that I didn’t need some help. So whether it’s meds or counseling or a weekly massage, doing something for yourself is helpful for fighting the fear, too.
So, I am choosing to do something different this year. I am going to fight the fear of flu season. I’m not going to ignore the risks and warnings, but I’m not going to obsess over every little thing or keep my kids away from things they are medically ready to do. (If you’re on lockdown, then your baby isn’t medically ready, so please keep their best interests first!) I’m going to acknowledge that it’s okay to be scared, but I’m going to remind myself that I have strong preemie fighters and if – IF – they get sick, we’ll handle that, too.
It’s just one more step away from the shadows of NICU life…