• Kristina Mulligan

Ways Being a Preemie Mom Has Changed Me

It’s difficult to say what type of parent I would have been if I had given birth to a full-term baby, but I know that I had some ideas for what I wanted to be. Some of these notions had to do with the type of person I was (very type A), others were a result of our battle with infertility. Who knows if these predictions would have come true, but your experiences shape you, and I am certain that being the mom to a preemie has changed me - for better or worse. 

I allow exploration and welcome adventure. I always thought that I would be more anxious when it comes to more adventurous activities, wanting to wrap my child in bubble wrap and never let him leave the house. In reality, Flynn is allowed to jump, climb, and run wherever and whenever he pleases. Of course, there will not be any “I can fly” moments off the dresser; we’ll leave that to Peter Pan. However, I love to watch him climb from this to that, run circles around the coffee table, or spin until he can’t walk in a straight line. I know the line between a scraped knee and a broken bone, but mostly, I know Flynn’s bravery and resilience. Being in the NICU and watching him overcome so much showed me that, not only is he determined to defy odds, he’s capable of so much more than most give him credit for. Plus, as a toddler, you can see the pride on his shining face. So, a little bump on the head? Please! He was so excited to try climbing that hill all by himself, that it didn’t even bother him. If there are tears, then he knows that mommy is here, and some kisses will patch him up so that he can try again. 

I am hyper-focused on giving my undivided attention. Of course, it is important to give your child your complete attention whenever possible, but my reasons for doing so stem all the way back to our NICU days. There were days that passed before I met my son for the first time, hours where he was scared, crying, and without his mama. In the days that followed, there were hours where I couldn’t be by his side and other times where I was there but couldn’t help him. So now, he yells for me and I’m there in a flash. If I’m busy with something else that needs my attention in that moment, I make sure to tell him “I see you. You’re the most important.” I feel the need to make up for lost time. 

I read labels and am more conscious of wellness. Having a baby that is medically fragile, and then having to be so careful with his health outside of the NICU, helped me become more aware of ingredients inside the things that we use. If I am trying so hard to keep this little human safe, why am I using dangerous chemicals to clean our home and bodies and eating food full of things that I cannot pronounce? To some extent, I tried to shop chemical-free and organic before Flynn was born, but now I must stay healthy for someone else who needs me so I’m more serious about making this a priority. In a future post, I’ll discuss more about our favorite products and the easiest ways to begin the transition to clean living.

We emphasize positivity and making a difference. I believe that no matter what, our lives would be centered around love and kindness because it was that way before Flynn was born. Taking this path, however, made me reevaluate life and phaseout any toxicity and fill our environment with positive people, experiences, and items that make us happy. I feel that huge life events, especially those that involve crisis, help put things into perspective, and this can be implemented in many ways. This was our family’s way, and doing so has had so many benefits, including the support given for us to make a difference. We’ve had the opportunity to research, learn, advocate, teach, and give back. Without being the mother of a preemie, I would have never been able to have the confidence that I do now or the ability to reflect this in my parenting. 

We make messes - lots of them. As someone who has always been very neat, clean, and has been diagnosed with OCD, I had nightmares about the messes that my future child (or children) would make. Of course, it is a natural and unavoidable part of childhood, but I expected to want complete control over the chaos. The truth is, I know how quickly all these memories could have been stolen from us and I like making memories in the messes. I love fingerpaint all over my kitchen, glitter on the carpet, stickers on my furniture, and playdough in my hair. We did all those things together. They make our family complete. They make our house a home.

With small beginnings comes appreciation for what everyone else believes are little things – each gram gained, every single breath taken, even every dirty diaper. After all that we’ve been through as a family, it’s easy to only focus on the negative, but over time I’ve learned to look at our experience as a gift, not as a punishment. Seeing these “little things” as major goals accomplished and learning to look through a positive lens has changed the views I had for myself about parenting. I choose to believe I’ve been changed for the better.

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