I have an admission to make: Sometimes I still struggle with my son’s premature birth. Although he is three and is doing very well despite his early start, I still struggle with the fact that my pregnancy ended three months early. Day to day, it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to, and like everything, life goes on. I even had a full-term baby boy after a premature delivery, but some days I can’t help but think about what I had went through.
I didn’t realize how much prematurity affected me until a couple of months ago at my friend’s annual Halloween party. A few of us moms gathered around the kitchen island and one of our friends just brought in her brand-new baby. We all started oohing and ahhing at this precious little person and we asked our friend how the delivery went. The conversation then leaned towards “exciting first birth stories.” Some were exciting and some were very funny.
Then, in the midst of it all, I blurted out that I was terrified that my son was born, as he arrived nearly three months early.
This was then followed by a long, awkward pause.
It then hit me:
When I look back at what we went through as a family, I realize we went through a lot. During my son’s 65-day hospital stay, we were in survival mode. We put our brave faces on as soon as we entered the NICU, scrubbed up and joined rounds. People came up to us and complimented on how “strong” we were and so “put together” during that difficult time. Yet there was another side to all this.
There were times that I would weep for hours while pumping in the early hours of the night. There were moments when I would hear a song on the radio and it would make me think of my son, and I would start to cry. I won’t deny it, being an NICU parent was very, very hard. With that being said, there were many precious moments during our NICU stay that made everything worth it, like the first time my husband and I got to bathe him or the first kangaroo cuddle.
If anyone can describe life in the NICU, it is simply one step forward, two steps back.
As we began to settle into our new surroundings, we felt "normal" - something that we strived for so desperately since he was born.
Unfortunately, the challenges we faced in the NICU did not end at discharge. During the months that followed, our son struggled with reflux and weight gain. Initially, he was doing well with conservative methods but as he began to eat more, the reflux would be worse and he would vomit a whole feed. He then began to associate eating with pain and eventually did not want to eat. This as parents was awful to watch as we felt so helpless for him. It brought back all the stress we had faced during our time in the NICU. However, we were determined to turn things around for our son and get him back on track with feeding. After consulting with our son’s pediatrician, we got a referral for a specialist and figured out the best medication to control his reflux. Eventually he saw a dietician and occupational therapist to help us with feeding and weight gain. Things eventually got better once we had the right plan in place for him, but going through all this left us feeling completely burned out.
After months of keeping it to myself
and feeling alone, I decided that it
was time to talk to someone
about what I had been going through.
She connected me with a wonderful counsellor who came to my house every few weeks to simply talk.
We talked about how my day was.
We talked about how I was feeling.
We talked about my hopes and my dreams.
Looking back, it was probably the best thing I could have done for myself. For the first time in months, I felt a release from all the worry and stress. I learned a lot about myself during my conversations with my counsellor and realized I was doing an amazing job as a first-time mom, despite all the challenges we faced in those first few months. I also accepted that there is no such thing as “normal” like what we see on television or on social media.
Once I accepted my reality,
I have also learned
that the best parent I can be
is one that can look after myself too,
because a happier me
makes me a better mom, wife, sister and friend.
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