• Kristina Mulligan

"When the Outside World 'Forgives' You, It’s Easier to be a Bit Gentler With Yourself."

When I was first admitted to the hospital with the expectation that our baby would be born much sooner than we anticipated, it was surreal. I thought that there was some sort of mistake that was made, or that my blood pressure would fix itself. Even in filling out the mountains of paperwork, I thought that I would be going home pregnant instead. I’m not sure when it started to feel real, it’s possible that it never did, but what hit me first was the fear. I had insurmountable fear that our family, our hopes, our dreams, and our lives would be broken. My heart ached for a loss that hadn’t even happened, and the fear shook my whole soul. All I could do was cry and dread what was to come. If I’m being honest, the fear hasn’t stopped, it only gets pushed down deeper and buried. It unearths itself from time to time and can be utterly paralyzing, just as it was in those days before unexpected motherhood.

After Flynn was born and was whisked to the NICU, my husband was eventually able to meet our new baby and let him know that he wasn’t alone. He brought back some photos, and that’s when the anger started. All the tubes, all the wires, his translucent skin, fused eyes, and impossibly small body...was my fault. My body betrayed itself and the result caused pain, struggle, and near death for this fragile little life, this person that I hoped and wished for all these years. Motherhood had just begun and I, right out of the gate, had already failed my child before I’d even met him.

Over time I realized that our lives weren’t completely broken, but we had so much that had to be rebuilt and we are still sorting through the rubble that prematurity left behind. And though my body had, once again, committed the ultimate betrayal (first, infertility and now preterm birth), I’ve grown to understand that what happened to me was unpreventable and wasn’t a result of things that I did, even though it was unfair. The difficult part is society. The outside world also needs to understand that about half of of premature births happen to those without any known risk factors. When the outside world “forgives” you, it’s easier to be a bit gentler with yourself.

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