Letter to a Preemie Mom
I see you. I’ve been there. I know that you’re scared about what’s going to happen on the journey ahead. You're losing sleep, wishing that you had the answers to all of these new questions swirling in your head. You’re trying to take notes on all the new medical terms you’re hearing, what each machine monitors, and what the different beeps mean. You’re overwhelmed, having been thrown into this new life that you didn’t expect. You’re trying your very best to take it all in, but you’re drowning, and all you can focus on is if and when you’ll be able to hold your baby.
I see you on the trip to the hospital that you take each day. It has become routine, even though it always seems rushed. You have so much to do, but time with your baby is so important and you don’t want to miss a second. You drive to the hospital with tears in your eyes because before you know it, you’ll be back in the car and leaving your heart behind in an isolette once again. I know that you’re wondering how much longer you’ll be able to do this, while also knowing that you’d do it every single day for the rest of your life if you had to.
I see you on the day that you get to take your baby home. Your smile is genuine and the tears are ones of joy, but you’re also terrified. You’re scared that you’re not meant for this, that you’ll never be able to do this without the help of nurses and doctors by your side every day and night, that something awful will happen the second you close your eyes to fall asleep.
I see you on your due date. Most people will never understand the significance that this day holds for you, but I do. The other mom-friends that you made in the groups on Facebook or in your prenatal yoga class will have their babies and you’ll be truly happy for them, but it hurts to see the celebration that they get to have that you missed out on. And on those playdates that you have together, you’ll have a smile on your face, but your heart sinks when you see how behind your child is and how far he has to go.
I see you struggle when an acquaintance or stranger asks how old your baby is. There are so many different ways to respond - chronological age, adjusted age, even a random number seems appealing sometimes. You think about lying so that you don’t have to get into all the details and follow-up questions, but you feel that you owe your child the credit for fighting as hard as they have by telling the truth. You’re tired of the glares you get by bringing your “newborn” to the mall, but also the judgment of your six month old being so tiny. You feel like you can’t win, so the answer to such a simple question is never constant.
I see you when you’re headed to the sixth appointment that you have this week…and it’s only Wednesday. You’re exhausted from the revolving door of doctors, specialists, and therapists. You wish that the time that you spend with your child was full of trips to the park, laughter, music classes, and story-time, but instead you’re in the car and waiting rooms instead. You stay up late preparing questions for the doctors and keeping logs of countless things, from food intake to patterns in their daily tasks. It’s not fair and you wonder why your child is the one that has to fight so hard, why this had to happen to your family.
I see you crying yourself to sleep because you feel so guilty. You blame yourself for somehow causing all of this - eating too much salt, not drinking enough water, not exercising enough, or whatever other thing you think you did wrong. Other nights you cry because you don’t think you’re cut out for this life full of special arrangements, countless appointments, and lists of diagnoses and treatment. This isn’t the life you planned, or the life that you imagined that your child would have.
I wish I had more than acknowledgement for you, I really do. I wish I had the answers to all of your whys, ifs, and hows - those are questions that I have, too. But I see you, your patience, gentleness, and strength, and sometimes it helps to know that you are not alone.
Another Preemie Mom