It dawned on me the other day when I was talking with another preemie mom that I am not the same person as I was before. Our experience changed me. I think mostly for the good…
1. I’m better at rolling with the punches than I thought. Before Jax was born, I really liked plans. I liked crossing things off my list. Having a preemie threw that out the window! I learned right away what it meant to literally take it one day (or even one minute) at a time. Now, I’m able to just be with the people I love, rather than worrying about what comes next.
2. It’s really hard for me to accept help, but I’m so glad that I did. When Jax was born, I was struggling to put one foot in front of the other. I wasn’t used to this. I was always the “strong one.” But, I needed help. And thankfully my best friend and my sister saw that and they organized an entire community of support for our family. And suddenly, we had food to eat and our dog was walked. And our friends and family organized a benefit for us so we wouldn’t worry about how we would stay current on our bills. And I stammered and hemmed and hawed and I finally said…thank you. And a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. Now, I’m more willing to give and receive help.
3. It really bothers me when people say things like “Well, you should be happy he’s alive!” and “At least he’s here now.” And “What’s the big deal? He’s fine now!” when they say this, it feels like they are discounting our experiences. I know people are probably trying to focus on the positive future, but it makes me shut down. When someone says something like this I truly know they will never “get it.” Now, I understand that not everyone has to get it.
4. I believe in Guardian Angels. I’m convinced that Jax’s guardian angels were with him every step of the way. Science, technology, and skill all played a huge part in saving Jax’s life, but there were days that I could feel them. Now, I see my mom and father-in-law everyday in the rays of sunshine.
5. Being a parent is the hardest job I’ve ever done. I worry. A lot. Now, I know that karma is a bitch and that I put my parents through hell!
6. I’m not actually cut out to be a stay-at-home mom. I love being able to be with Jax all day. I love teaching him and helping him. But I do not like all the other stuff that goes along with it. I hate paperwork and I’m really far behind at keeping it all organized. My house is a mess. I had big plans to make healthy food every night for our family, but I gave Jax a hot dog for dinner 3 times last week instead. I’m too tired. I miss weekends! Now, I appreciate the value of a career.
7. Sometimes the strongest people are the people you least expect to be strong. Jax proved that to me time and time again. Here was a tiny baby who weighed barely a pound…and he was in that incubator flapping his arms and moving his head and furrowing his brow…and he was fighting! Now, I don’t doubt what people can do.
8. I think the only thing keeping me from spiraling into depression or being swallowed by PTSD is my built-in positivity. I often catch myself feeling anxious. This isn’t new to me…I’m generally an anxious person. However, after Jax, it’s harder for me to calm myself down with deep breaths and a walk. I feel depression and PTSD knocking at my window. The only thing keeping them out is my built-in ability to see the positive side of things. I could let my anxiety, depression, and PTSD overpower me. But, it is in my nature to walk on the sunny side of the street instead. But some days those shadows just follow me. Now, I know that it is not always going to be easy to see the positive.
9. I’m (not so secretly) hoping that the blog and volunteering at Children’s Hospital will open up some other avenues for me. Even during Jax’s time in the hospital, I knew that I wanted to, needed to, be involved with helping others deal with a child’s hospital stay. I’ve been telling our story and volunteering, but, eventually I’m going to have to make some money! I hope that I can find a way to continue following my passion to help. Now, I will trust that an opportunity will open up for me.
10. I feel blessed to be able to share our story through this blog. I never thought I’d end up a blogger. But when a preemie mom reaches out and lets me know that she’s “been there” or when a parent tells me that a post helped with her own child, it makes my heart swell up and it makes me want to write more. Now, I know that I am not alone.
Parents – how has having a preemie or a child in the hospital changed you? Do you feel stronger than you did before? What have you learned?
(A version of this post was published on The Mighty: 5 Things I Learned About Myself When My Micro Preemie Baby Was Born.)
Thank you for visiting our blog! It seems like a lot of us preemie parents have been changed by our prematurity journeys – this is one of the most popular post on our site. We’d love it if you followed our blog and liked us on Facebook!
19 thoughts on “How Having a Preemie Changed Me (10 Things I’ve Learned About Myself and About Life)”
My son is still in the NICU has been in for 72 days. He has bpd and struggles to eat and breath because he works so hard to breath. The Thing that bothers me is when people say they know how you feel. But never had a baby in the NICU. I have severe anxiety always have and most days this feels over whelming.. it would be easy to run and hide from my fears and anxiety.. but instead I work full time and go to school full time and have him to worry about. Glad to see I’m not alone with the ways I’ve changed since his birth.
Hi jax! Thanks for the reply.
She is doing wonderful! And does not usually ask directly about the prematurity.
She does see things and compares to her Baby photos. Whenever she see a isolette or ng tube she always says “just like me”.
She is at such a fun age! She loves arts and crafts , reading and snuggling. She has come so far and done so well.
She still has to see a SLP for speech but she is definitely doing great.
When she is old enough I will sit her down and explain to her just how special she is and how her birth was so premature. But right now. I don’t think she truly understands. We have only told her that she was born early and very small. 🙂
So great to hear how well she is doing now! Yay! I’ve always wondered how parents talked about “the beginning” with their preemies once they got older. Thanks for sharing!
You sharing your experience about this journey throughout the course of the past year along with a few other big picture moments in my life has helped me feel more empathy for strangers. I don’t judge random people in the grocery store anymore, or get so angry at horrible drivers. You have reminded me that I literally have NO IDEA what is going on in those people’s lives, and I should just assume they are going through something where a positive person would be much better in their lives than a negative know-it-all person. Thanks for that Andrea. XOXOX 🙂
That’s a good one, Jenny! I’ll admit, I still sometimes get impatient with people (especially drivers!). I need to remember that I don’t know their whole story. Thanks for reminding me of that! (PS I really wish we lived closer to each other!)
Thank you so much for sharing! This made my heart crumble. I am 4 years out from having my lo at 31.5 weeks. We were “lucky” she was 3.5 lbs and did fairly well besides some minor issues in the NICU, and developmental delays.
To this day, everyday, I struggle with PTSD. I often equate that to the trauma of the NICU and my daughters prematurity, but also to the lose of our first child at 17 weeks.
I am so sorry you have had to go through what we went through, and then more. I am also so thankful that I have someone who shares in my thoughts and feelings.
The one thing that hit home for me was people saying “she is fine now”. I HATE that!!! It is true, she is fine, but I don’t know if I ever will be. I don’t know if I will ever get back to that “normal” feeling. Nights where I don’t reflect on the NICU, would be so nice. I don’t know, if I will ever stop feeling guilty for my body not being able to help her grow. I don’t know if my jealousy of other mothers and their “perfect” pregnancies will ever go away (seeing maternity photos makes me cry, because “we” never even got there), or even the fact that I lost my choice to have another child. It hurts! And just because things are getting better, does not mean that everything is fine.
I am so thankful for my daughter, and in a way the NICU did help. I will never for a moment forget just how precious she is, I will not take her for granted. I will never forget how strong she is, and how much fight she has inside of her.
Thank you for your post! From one preemie mommy to another!
Thank you for taking the time to write Charmaine! It’s a long and difficult road, that’s for sure. I’m so happy your daughter had only minor issues. 4 years old must be a fun age!! 🙂 just curious, does she ever ask about her prematurity?
I’m so sorry you’re dealing with PTSD and the guilt. I think that’s a universal theme for us preemie parents, huh? I’ll be sending tons of positive and healing thoughts to you. Give your daughter a big squeeze from this preemie mommy, ok? 🙂
Oh, Andrea, how far you have come to realize what you had all your life. I have been there in many different ways and at the end of the day, all of the lemons have made a lifetime of lemonade for me. I count my blessings so many times and appreciate so much more. I love each person for what they are and hold my “polish temper” waaay better than I ever did before in my life. So, it is so good to see your blunt honesty pour forth and that you now know who you are and why. The world should be loving you, as I do. God bless your every minute!!!
Thank you! I, too, have somehow gotten my “Polish temper” in check over the years! 🙂 I feel like the last year has really help clarify a lot of things for me.
Andrea, why must you always bring tears to my eyes? 🙂 Love you.
I so relate to all of these, especially to #6, #8 and #9 and really all of them. lol. The flashbacks have ended but the anxiety hasn’t and I miss being respected (although I am sure that my almost 7 month will respect me in 15 years) at work. I too feel like giving back will help me to heal and have signed up to speak at a nurses workshop for new NICU staff. I hope sharing will heal me and heal other families. Thanks for sharing and making me feel like I am not alone as I sit here in the dark (6am) with a cold coffee and my gorgeous bundle of preemie inspiration passed out on my lap.
LOL – yes, we will earn our respect in 15 years! 🙂 I think it’s great that you’re volunteering to tell your story. I think it really helps add a personal element for the nurses in training – it makes it more *real* – they are taking care of someone’s child and not just a patient. Let me know how it goes! Now, let’s go warm up our coffee!
I didn’t mean to make you cry!!!! Wipe those tears and get ready for the Food Truck Festival this weekend instead! 😉