How Having a Preemie Changed Me (10 Things I’ve Learned About Myself and About Life)

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.)

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