I will forever be a preemie mom.
My preemie’s birth is always with me, even four years later. I still look at my son while he is sleeping, to make sure that he is breathing. My Facebook news feed is full of posts and blogs about prematurity and life after. When I am in conversations with expecting moms about their pregnancy, I can’t help but to encourage them to relax and enjoy the weeks ahead. I will never forget, that babies can be born too soon. I will never forget, that a uterus can betray you. My baby was born, too soon. My uterus, betrayed me.
I can sum up my life in two parts, before prematurity and after. My son’s birth sixteen weeks early was the most defining moment in my life. It changed me. Delivering a baby who was only one pound, five ounces and sick – shook me to the core. My love for him was not premature or unhealthy. It was full term and strong. Those five months in the NICU were a hard way to start my journey into motherhood. Watching him fight, and praying he didn’t suffer, that was my life for the longest time. I thought once we were discharged that life would somehow return to normal. I thought prematurity and being a preemie mom ended with the NICU, and age adjustments ended in the first year. But then came surgeries and follow ups and procedures. I could never have been more wrong.
I will always be a preemie mom, and here are five of the most meaningful reasons why:
- My Son’s premature birth taught me some of the greatest life lessons. Appreciate the little things. Be patient. Pray and believe. Before Jharid was born at 24 weeks I saw these statements as popular mantras that people threw around. They are real, and full of power. In the NICU we found our sanity in celebrating the little things. For five months, that was all we had. The things that healthy babies do naturally, my baby had to work very hard to learn. Breathing, feeding, maintaining his temperature – all of those milestones took lots of time. We learned to be patient and to pray. Prayer was like breathing. His dad and I not only prayed for Jharid, we prayed for the other babies, and the nurses and doctors who cared for them. Sometimes, I would wake up from a nap in prayer. I prayed in my dreams. I prayed for my dreams. All of these things proved beneficial in helping us get through that part of our lives. I still apply them as I mother.
- Prematurity is still a part of our lives. Jharid suffered brain bleeds in the NICU and developed necrotizing entercolitis (NEC) and retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). The brain bleeds, lack of nutrients while recovering from NEC, and the visual impairments from ROP have resulted in real developmental delays. Jharid has cerebral palsy. So each day as we enter his school for children with special needs, and as we work on helping him learn to talk and walk, as we stretch his muscles and pray for his growth, I am reminded of how we got to this place. Prematurity is always on my mind. It is our reason why.
- Every year on his birth date I remember the day he was born. Jharid was supposed to be born in August. He was born in April. April. When it is time for his birthday to come around again, my mind is flooded with memories of his birth day. The labor that came out of nowhere. The fear and panic. The moment I let it settle in my mind that he wasn’t going to live. The moment he was born and we decided to fight like hell. I wrote the poem, On the Day You Were Born to put my sea of emotions into rhythm. His birthday is far more important to me, than my own.
- Any time I see a video or television show about prematurity, the flood of tears commences. Just last month I was watching an episode of Grey’s Anatomy and the episode explored prematurity. I cried for an entire hour. Even though the mother and father were actors, I didn’t want them to go through the NICU. I prayed the story would turn out positive. It didn’t. It is wonderful to see prematurity explored on television, and I wish talk shows and day time television would cover it more. It is the only way to remove the stigma and the shame. Prevention comes from awareness.
- I have a job to do. Before Jharid was born, I had never had a conversation about prematurity. As far as I knew, no one in the family was born early. I did not even consider it as an option and I did not know what a NICU was. As a result, when Jharid was born I had no one to call. There was no one to lean on. Part of my work now is to provide support to preemie moms through my Facebook page and blog, Praying4MyPreemie. I also write personalized preemie poems for parents, to celebrate the journey. They love my work, but for me it is therapy as well. When I write for them I am able to relive the miracles and the beauty of my son’s early birth. It helps me to keep holding on. Prematurity gave me purpose.
It’s been four years and I still post about Jharid and call him my preemie. I still cry sometimes while looking into his eyes, grateful for how far he has come. As he stands in his gate trainer I still encourage him with an occasional “Preemie Power!”. Why? Because we may be out of the NICU but we are not out of the woods. We are still on the road to recovery. Prematurity has had a lasting effect on our family. Daily I am called on to console new moms and dads as they enter parenthood too soon. We are a family impacted by prematurity and we will continue to spread awareness. Without apology.
Now I am still many other things – a partner, a mentor, a daughter and sister, a friend, a writer and business owner, but I am all of those things post prematurity. I will always and forever be a preemie mom. I will always and forever love and appreciate my miracle.