“Making the decision to have a child — it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
— Elizabeth Stone
The above quote resonates with every parent, mother or father, young or old, every single time they read it. Of that I am sure. What I am also sure of is that we, preemie parents, can attest that having a preemie is so much more painful than just having your heart go walking outside your body. That heart of ours is badly bruised and so very fragile. And it’s not walking around, at least not yet. It is just laying there, day after day, waiting to hear those magic words “he is going to be okay” before it can start beating again. More importantly, it’s not broken. Far from it. Just like a preemie’s indomitable spirit. And both, our heart and our preemie, are growing stronger every day.
Something I had not been really sure of until recently is how much grandparents are affected by their grandchild’s early birth.
Not too long ago I suddenly stopped dead in my tracks when I overheard a conversation between two women at the library where I work. The first woman asked the other one how her granddaughter was doing. All I heard were the words “preeclampsia,” “they had to take her early,” “29 weeks and 2lbs 6oz.” I couldn’t believe it! Other than the fact that they were talking about a baby girl, they very well could’ve been talking about my son and I.
At the risk of appearing rude, I walked over to the two women and blurted out, “my son was born 11 weeks early, too!” The grandmother seemed stunned at first and I apologized for barging into their conversation. Then we had such a wonderful talk! I learned that her granddaughter was on day 25 of her NICU stay and her only issue was not being able to breast or bottle-feed yet.
I reassured grandma that her grandbaby would be feeding on her own in no time. And it was a proud moment for me when I ran to get a picture of my former 2 lbs 6oz, 29-weeker, now 2 ½ year old, 25 pound, ball of energy, to show her and to say, “See how good he looks? See how big he is?” But I had to stop there because the tears just started streaming down my face and I was still in the middle of my work day. We said our goodbyes and I thought that would be it. I regretted how I handled the whole thing; I had felt I had made the whole discussion about me and my preemie.
However, a month later, the grandma was back in the library and when she saw me she exclaimed, “my granddaughter is home!” And then she said something I will never forget. She said, “Thank you so much for sharing your story. It helped me so much! I had been so worried about my granddaughter and my daughter that hearing how well you and your son was doing really made me feel like I could breathe again.” And while I can’t be sure of it, I like to believe that is when her heart started beating again.