If Jax Is Doing Great, Then Why Am I Falling Apart? (The Bittersweet First Birthday)

A lot of other preemie moms warned me that the first birthday would be a hard time. I didn’t really believe them! Why would a first birthday be anything other than a celebration!? I mean, making it a year, when doctors said from the start “he may not leave the hospital,” that’s amazing! He’s strong, he’s happy. He’s mostly healthy.

This week is the second week in a year where he has had no doctor’s appointments! (The first week off was when we were up north on vacation.)

There is a lot to celebrate! Not a second of a day goes by that I am not thankful that Jax’s journey has been a positive one of hope, strength, and love. He makes me laugh every day. He likes to sing songs. He’s “this close” to learning how to crawl! He’s a little fiesty boy with a huge personality. He’s our little superhero!


But, friends, now I get it. I understand what those other moms meant. It’s hard for me to find the words to explain what it is I’ve been feeling the last few weeks. So, I’ll try to give you some examples…

On the morning of Jax’s birthday, I woke up convinced that Jax was going to die that day. I felt like it was time for our luck to run out. And that since he didn’t die on his birth day, that, of course, he should die on his birthday. I ran into his room, I felt for his breathing. I was sure that I was not going to find it. And then, he started getting this weird rash…and oh my GOD! Was this it? But I kept it together, because I knew he wasn’t actually going to die…right?

Yesterday, I couldn’t let go of him. Each time I put him down, I was reminded (that’s not even a strong enough word, more like shocked) of the times I left him all alone in that hospital bed.

I’ll be walking into my living room, and all of a sudden I am there. I hear the alarms, I see the nurses faces, I feel the fear I felt in those early days when Jax was fighting infection after infection. I see him all tiny and sick. I see his arms and legs like little twigs. I see him with his eyes still fused shut. And then I realize that today (not this date last year, but today) is the day that his eyes first opened. I am there. 

The first time Mom saw Jax, 4 hours after his birth.
The first time Mom saw Jax, 4 hours after his birth.

I know it’s not logical and I know it’s not awesome. And I wish I had better words to explain it…it’s not happening every second of every day, but when it does happen, it stops me in my tracks.

Is this post-traumatic stress? Have any of you ever experienced anything like this? What did you do? I don’t know how to make it stop…

Author: Andrea M

Oh man, what an adventure! I went into labor unexpectedly when I was 23w3d pregnant. Jaxson was born weighing 1 lb 8 oz. A tiny little peanut, but boy was he feisty. He still is! We love it now, but we probably won't when he is a teenager. I write about our journey and all other things that come with it, including a brain tumor. We look forward to "meeting" you - come hang out with us...we're pretty cool.

18 thoughts on “If Jax Is Doing Great, Then Why Am I Falling Apart? (The Bittersweet First Birthday)”

  1. hi Andi, I saw an interview with Mayim Bialik about co-sleeping with your baby and wearing a sling to develop a closer bond with your baby, anyway, it seem really interesting and maybe you want to take a look at it? I remember it when I read your line: “I ran into his room”… in other cultures, like in Mexico, is OK to sleep with your babies to develop a safe space, my Japanese friend, mom of 2, does the same, her American husband wasn’t that sure, also the slings and Mexican “rebozos” do help develop that bond and safety 🙂 http://www.mayimbialik.net/beyondthesling/ of course I don’t know ’cause I am not a mom, but maybe you can find some tips in the book, love from San Diego, we miss you!


    1. Hi Bere – thanks! I actually do wear Jax alot! He loves it and so do I! We did so much skin-to-skin Kangaroo Care in the hospital so it was a good precursor to baby wearing. Jax slept with us in our room for about 4 months and then he outgrew his bassinet! It works better for us to have him in his crib now. I’ll check out the book – thank you!


  2. hugs! Its ohh so hard. I had very similar feelings, flashbacks, and anxiety around Virginia’s first birthday and can feel it coming on as we head toward all of those anniversaries again. It sounds like PTSD. I was never diagnosed and found that for me the best way to work through it was to focus on Virginia’s care and start doing advocacy work (and blog writing of course.).

    You are one strong mama. You have been through a lot. Try your best to give yourself an outlet for your emotions.


    1. Thanks, Alyssa. I love reading Virginia’s story – she is amazing and so adorable! How did you get started with advocacy work? I’d like to start doing some more “formal” work with other preemie parents and organizations, but I’m not sure where to start. I’m volunteering at our NICU as part of a parent advisory council and I also share our story to different groups to raise awareness – it’s amazing and it helps me focus!


  3. You are doing what you should do, that is to talk about it and not just hold it in, fearing that no one will understand. Women would not talk about these feeling. It happens to lots of mothers, even mothers with healthy babies. I raised 3 Sons and I felt what you are feeling with each one and for some reason it was “at last, my son turned 1 year old”. Thank you for letting us and trusting us with your fears, it takes a brave person to let others know their fears/pain. I hope you know that you have lots of friends behind you. Maybe you are missing your CASAS friends/family! This is an open invite, if you can get you and your family to San Diego, I live in a 4 bedroom house and you are welcome to stay with me. I will be there for about a year more so just let me know your coming and my doors will be open for you. 🙂


    1. Tricia – thanks for linking your post about your PTSD. It helps so much to know that I’m not alone. That’s why I love blogging so much and meeting other bloggers. So many of your posts really “hit home” with me. And I love reading about the muppets!


  4. I experienced exactly this once Jack turned one. Some made me feel as thought I should be “over it” at that point, but I knew, deep down, that it was an essential part of healing/processing from this journey. I feel like I basically relieved his traumatic birth and 112 day NICU stay exactly 1 year later. I think it happens because we are in “survival mode” for so long and when we finally reach that 1-year mark, we are able to process what really happened and feel the feelings that we held off by trying to stay hopeful and positive. What helped me deal and move forward was to share our entire story with a therapist and then I found a group of preemie moms near me to talk with face-to-face. I still drive to that group every months (2 hours round-trip)…it has saved me. Online friends were helpful too 🙂


    1. Heather – thank you! You had eluded to this a couple of weeks ago in a comment, but I didn’t really get it! I think you’re right – it’s like all we do is fight… and once the fight starts becoming more “normal” we have time to process what really happened. I think the time in the hospital was actually easier in some ways, and weirdly, I sometimes miss it. I think it’s because in the hospital, there was always a doctor or nurse to fall back on and we were literally just trying to put one foot in front of the other. I got to meet some preemie moms face-to-face yesterday and I can already tell that it’s going to be a great thing!! Thank god for the Internet, too! 🙂


  5. I’ve been a long time (about a year 🙂 reader and I feel compelled to comment. I believe you do have PTSD. My daughter was not premature but contracted septic meningitis at 6 weeks old, she was a twin so she was a bit small and a few weeks early. The illness also unmasked a heart defect, I was told the likelyhood of her surviving was slim. She did survive and we lived a few months of bliss before she was then diagnosed with a serious auto-immune disease at 9 months old and we were hospitalized again.

    She’s now 2, pretty healthy and very happy. For a long time I re-lived our weeks in the hospital every day, i constantly worried, all the time. I was constantly listening to her heart and checking her breathing. She slept in my bed until 6 months ago, it was the only way i could sleep well. I only realized that I had PTSD after I stopped suffering from it. We’ve gone about a year and a half without a hospital stay, life is good!

    I just want to tell you it’s totally normal. The less and less you see the doctors and have to be reminded about his struggles, the less you will think about it. I don’t take even a minute with her for granted but the trauma of our hospital stays have lessened greatly over the last year. You’re an awesome Mama, keep it up!!!!!


    1. Megan – thank you for reaching out and for sharing your story. It’s helps so much to hear from other parents who have been through hospital stays and illnesses. I’m so glad your daughter is a happy little girl. Isn’t amazing how strong and resilient the kids are? It’s harder on us, than on them, I think. I think you’re right that it will get less traumatic as time goes on. Time heals…now I just have to be patient!


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