I normally consider myself a fairly positive person. However, when my son was born at 28 weeks gestation, it was impossible for me to feel anything other than grief and fear. My baby Arthur spent almost three months in hospital and it was, without a doubt, the most difficult time of my life.
Fast forward a year and I am blessed to have a healthy one-year-old son. At this very moment, I can hear his shrieks of laughter from the next room, as he plays with his daddy. I feel the warmth of joy and contentment filling my body. Perhaps now, it is a good time to meditate on the positives of having a premature baby (perhaps silver linings, at least).
1. Celebrate the tiny milestones
When you have a preemie, you appreciate and celebrate every milestone, no matter how small. While most parents celebrate baby’s first steps or first words, preemie parents appreciate every tiny indication of growth and progress.
We celebrated when Arthur was able to breathe by himself, without supplemental oxygen or assistance from a ventilator or cpap. We cheered as he had his feeding tube removed. I have kept the gold star that we stuck on his incubator when he doubled his birth weight and reached two kilos. And I still remember the wonderful feeling when he was finally big enough to fit into baby clothes (even if they were size 000000).
When is it all OK to start exercising and having sex after child birth? We ask an expert on our pregnancy podcast. Post continues.
2. Skip the Baby Comparison
Don’t we all love the (not so subtle) baby bragging and one-upmanship that sometimes goes on between mums? My little Jimmy was rolling at three weeks, while Susan was self settling by two months, while my Patrick was feeding himself, talking, walking, mastering quantum physics by four months (You get the general picture).
Having a preemie makes it easy to bypass the comparison/competition and puts things into perspective. My 28-weeker is alive, healthy and happy! I know that he will reach his developmental milestones at his own pace, when he is good and ready.
3. Warrior baby
If you have had a preemie then you know you have been blessed with a very special baby. Preemies are warrior babies that have had to fight to survive. Their tiny little hands and feet are deceptive in hiding their true strength and determination.
Moving forward in life, when Arthur is faced with challenges, I know that he possess the strength and reliance to overcome anything that he sets his mind too. Even when the odds are stacked against him.
Having a premature baby can put an enormous amount of strain on your relationship but it also provides an opportunity to strengthen the bond with your partner through the shared experience.
During our NICU journey, my husband was my greatest sources of support. I did not know that it was possible to love him more than I already did, but as we sat in the NICU, day in and day out, for almost three months, we gained a new level of intimacy. Together, we cried, we waited, we held our breath, through all the ups and downs. And there were even times that we found opportunities to laugh, reminding ourselves of the joy we share in each other.
5. The Support
More than anything else, I am grateful for having a preemie because it opened my eyes to the staggering amount of love and kindness that surrounds me. When our son was born and during his time in the NICU, we received an outpouring of love, support and generosity. Messages of love and acts of kindness were received, not only from our close family and friends but also from our wider community. It was truly overwhelming and humbling in a way that words will never begin to describe.
How blessed we are that my son will grow up in a world so full of kindness and love.
6. Inner Strength
If you are a preemie parent then I am willing to bet that you are stronger than you ever thought possible. You made it through the trials and tribulations, the highs and the lows. You survived.
There will be times that you fell apart, of course. The times that you buried your head in your hands and cried. When tears of anxiety and grief rolled down your cheeks, and you feared that you might just drown from the weight of the situation that you found yourself in.
But then you took a deep breath. You lifted your head. And you carried on.
You pushed through your exhaustion, you faced your worst fears and you came out the other side. You discovered an inner strength and resilience that you never knew you had. A strength that you will now carry with you, always.
Too much noise and not enough time?