REPOST: What I Would Say to New Preemie Parents

Today is Parents of Preemies Day and I wanted to repost something that I wrote LAST year. Every bit of it is still true. :)

Love you lots and lots, Jessica

……….

Family photo

It’s after 10:00 at night while I write this, so I apologize for being tardy to the party. I heard about this event only a few days ago… and honestly… I immediately felt a little bit uneasy about it.

We are supposed to celebrate being a preemie parent? Like, we should be wearing a shirt and waving our hands in the air and hollering about what amazing, rock-star parents we all are?

Seriously?

Am I ridiculously proud of Jolie?

You bet. Ridiculously.

Am I proud of Garrett and I for being awesome at this “preemie parenting” thing?

Uhhhh… I don’t think we are always awesome at “regular” parenting.

Do I struggle with guilt feelings that my body let Jolie down? That I let Jolie down?

Maybe. (Yes.)

Would I EVER say that about (or to) another preemie parent?

No way!

Because God is sovereign–He’s in control–right?

Luckily, I quickly became convicted about these feelings. SO I am going to try really hard to set my own pride issues aside and keep my own emotional junk from “poo poo-ing” what is actually a really great, fantastic idea that I would love to be a bigger part of in 2014.

The intentions, the spirit of the “Parents of Preemies Day” is “recognizing the courage and commitment of parents of premature babies.”

The Day was started in 2012 by the Graham’s Foundation. From the “P of P Day” website:

“Parents of Preemies Day is a national day of awareness on Sunday, March 10th, 2013 recognizing the courage and commitment it takes to stay strong and resilient when premature birth turns a family’s world upside down.

Each year, 13 million babies are born prematurely across the globe to parents who never expected their birth stories would be so challenging. Though medical breakthroughs continue to improve outcomes for preemies, experts are only now beginning to understand the intense psychological effects that premature birth has on moms and dads.

This year, our goal is to bring Parents of Preemies Day to a global audience. In addition to local events in communities around the US, we are also hosting a Twitter chat so that moms and dads, NICUs, and prematurity professionals can join together to celebrate the strength and resilience demonstrated by parents of preemies at all stages of the journey.

With your help, we will be able to accomplish this year’s ambitious goal, bring the initiative to a wider domestic audience, and make the second annual Parents of Preemies Day a huge success.”

Source: (www.parentsofpreemiesday.org)

And the brutiful truth is, having a premature baby is HARD. Really hard. It shakes everything up. Upside down and backwards. And in the months (years?) ahead you find yourself often deferring to medical teams–nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists, surgeons, feeding therapists, physical therapists, developmental therapists, speech therapists, social workers, home health care nurses, county nurses, early intervention therapists… and on and on…

So, in the spirit of “DANG IT, this preemie parenting thing is HARD”… to any new preemie parent, I say this:

LIFE is hard. Life in these moments is REALLY hard. You didn’t choose this, but YOU are doing absolutely amazing. And it is okay to feel like you don’t have it all together–this is new and ugly and beautiful and tough. But you are doing amazing.

It’s okay if you fall apart. It’s actually probably a very appropriate reaction to this crazy show.

It’s okay if you think your teeny, tiny, baby looks like I wrinkly old man–like Benjamin Button even–but please remember that you also think she is the most beautiful thing you have ever seen.

It’s okay if you don’t feel an immediate bond with your baby. And it’s definitely okay if you “google” your feelings to see if they are normal. This is a really messed up situation you’ve just found yourself in.

Cry. Pray. Mediate.

Laugh.

And don’t feel guilty about laughing.

Make some new “NICU parent” friends. And get their full names and an email address (or SOMETHING) before  their baby passes the car seat test and is discharged before you get to the hospital the next morning. After all, you would have arrived earlier and not missed their departure… but you stayed up too late staring at the ceiling and listening to Jesus songs that made you weep. Or maybe you were watching a Duck Dynasty marathon on TV.

Go outside every day. Even if only for three minutes. If you find yourself running back to the door because your anxiety is leaving you breathless… that’s okay, too.

You will receive beautiful, encouraging, heartfelt notes and phone calls and texts that mean THE WORLD to you. But between doctors’ rounds, alarms, kangaroo care, alarms, desperate prayers, alarms, diaper changes, alarms, milk-trucking, alarms… and terrible, no-good, very bad days… you might not have the energy or emotional strength to get all your “thank yous” sent back. It’s okay.

And during those first few weeks, while you are still in total shock, your early baby bird will be completely unpredictable. Roller-coastering up and roller-coastering down. Ugh. Those moments are SO hard.

Your baby might be in a hospital an hour and a half away from your home. Maybe she is four hours away from your home. Unless your doctor or nurse is telling you to stay nearby… go home every now and then. You might have older babies that desperately miss their momma. You might have a dang cat expressing his fears of abandonment by going poo poo on your living room carpet even though his litter box is getting cleaned twice a day by your husband, your mother-in-law, or your grandmother-in-law. Maybe, just maybe, your cat is a moody punk.

Hey–don’t drink too many milkshakes from the cafeteria. Eventually you are going to go home and want to wear jeans that do not have a stretchy maternity panel in them. OR, if you want… drink a milkshake every single day just because it makes you happy.

If your baby cannot nurse… pump, pump, pump. Or don’t. It’s an extremely personal choice. And don’t you fall into the mommy guilt pit about this, better yet… don’t you let anyone push you in. You need encouragers right now. Stay close to the encouragers.

And let people help you. Love is an action and those neighbors of yours must love you a whole lot.

Say “hello” and “good morning” to the faces you pass in the hospital hallways. PLEASE DON’T say “Hi” to EVERY face you pass or you’ll look like a crazy person. DO say “hello” to a few people each day. They are going through something hard too… and a smile might cheer you both up.

Hold your baby as much as possible… for hours upon hours upon hours at a time if her nurse thinks it’s okay. Or don’t. That’s okay, too. Alarming babies with wires and tubes are scary. But I’m sure your baby loves to be held by you… except for when she hates it. When she hates it, she will become agitated and express her displeasure with more alarms.

Take pictures. Your baby is beautiful. I promise.

Talk about bowl movements. Your baby’s, not yours. Unless talking about your bowl movements is your thing. Talking about baby poop is your rite of passage into parenthood.

Find a nurse or two or five that you love. Find nurses whose care includes being a good teacher, but who you would want to talk to if you were out in the real world, too. It is very possible that you will be spending weeks and months together as your baby grows. These nurses are doing God’s work every day–they are keeping that baby of yours alive. True story.

Same goes for respiratory therapists.

Talk to the housekeeping staff. They are really great people who probably know your baby’s name. And one day, a woman will look at you at tell you that she prays for your baby–and she will absolutely mean it.

Keep talking with God. And keep thinking about all of those people who are also praying for your girl. Even if it was just you, God would hear that single prayer. BUT I’m pretty certain there are hundreds (thousands?) of people including your child in their thoughts, their conversations with God. This must make Him smile. You love that baby, but Jesus does most. And He knows His plans for her. Psalm 139:13-16 andJeremiah 29:11.

Tell your parents–your baby’s grandparents–that today isn’t a good day for visitors. Maybe you just need a day to cry and be still. They will understand.

Momma, tell your husband, or your boyfriend, or your baby daddy… that YOU are going to hold your baby first. That you are going to kangaroo care first. That you are going to change her diaper first. That you will be giving her the first bottle. He will understand. And if he doesn’t… oh well. That baby was inside you, not nearly as long as you had hoped and the two of you have some catching up to do.

But don’t hog all of the good stuff. Let your husband hold this beautiful girl too. He loves her in a way that makes you so proud, so in awe, so in love with both of them. And he is an absolutely fantastic dad. And husband.

After morning rounds, when the doctor asks you if you have any questions… ask questions. Or don’t. And if you think of a question just 17 seconds after the doctor leaves the room… don’t feel like an idiot for not thinking of it sooner. Ask your nurse. She is probably crazy smart, but if she doesn’t know the answer she will find somebody who does.

Be honest if you want different care for your baby. If your “gut” or your intuition or your nudge is telling you that something just isn’t right… speak up. Your baby needs you as an advocate. More than that, she needs you as her Momma.

Never forget that your baby is very strong. Super tiny-human strength.

Oh, and back to that “making friends” business I mentioned earlier… I suggest making friends with at least one parent who has been in the NICU longer than you and one parent whose baby was born after yours. It’s an encouragement conga line that way. You’ll also have a friend that you can talk with about “that crazy nurse” who has really awesome nursing care, but you completely believe is a *bit* crazy.

And when your baby is getting ready to be discharged, you might be really happy-sad about this. Happy your peanut is doing SO amazing, but sad to be leaving this bizarre world that became your home for 102 days. You made a lot of friends and your baby had some really awesome firsts here. Children’s Hospitals. NICUs. Miracles happen in these places. Angels are standing on the rooftops I’m sure.

When your baby is buckled in the car seat, locked in for the trip home… you will probably feel like you have stolen goods in the back. Try not to drive too fast. A cop will not pull you over for having your baby in the car, but he WILL pull you over for speeding.

And it’s okay to be absolutely scared when you walk in the front door of your house with your girl for the very first time. It’s okay to be scared of the monitors and the oxygen and the medicine that those “professionals” decided it was okay to send home with a couple of first-time amateur parents. You will figure it out.

And remember…

LIFE is hard. Life in these moments is REALLY hard. You didn’t choose this, but YOU are doing absolutely amazing. And it is okay to feel like you don’t have it all together–this is new and ugly and beautiful and tough. But you are doing amazing.

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