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The Stages of Preemie Parenting

preemie, preemie mom, preemie dad, nicu, nicu life, nicu baby, premature baby, grief, loss, february, 2019, parenting, personal blog, blogger, mom blogger

When I was pregnant, and even before, I read all of the books on pregnancy and parenting. I felt that I was on my way to being a wonderful, prepared mother...and then my son was born three months early. My world shattered and I felt so uncertain, like I was on a journey alone. You see, however, statistics show that 1 in 10 babies is born prematurely. There’s a whole community out there if you look hard enough, even right here in the Hudson Valley. I feel like it’s important to write about our journey for two reasons: to give preemie parents a voice and to acknowledge that their feelings aren’t abnormal, and also to educate others about the emotions that parents of preemies experience so that they can support their friends and loved ones.  

In many ways, preemie parenting feels like a loss. To anyone who hasn’t experienced this firsthand, it may sound selfish, but it's true. You miss out on the baby bump, showers, maternity photos, typical newborn experiences, and the overall celebration that comes with having a baby. There are stages of grief associated with this loss, as there are with other traumatic situations, and approaching Flynn’s second birthday I feel that I am finally entering the final step.

  1. Denial: Being in a situation where your child is in danger is a very surreal experience, but especially when that child is born prematurely. I felt so helpless and was in a constant state of disbelief. I was depressed, confused, and walked around in a fog. I tried to pretend everything was okay, but it wasn’t. I wasn’t. 
  2. AngerHow could this happen to us? I did everything that the books said. This is so unfair! I did a lot of yelling and angry crying as I was mad at the world and mad at myself. I couldn’t understand why out of everyone who was gifted amazing pregnancies and healthy babies, I wasn’t one of them. I swore that I would never forgive myself for letting this happen somehow.
  3. BargainingIf I promise to do what I can to be a better person, if I start praying, if I do whatever is asked of me, can this all just go away? Can I be done with all of it? I did a lot of this in the NICU because I so desperately wanted to take my baby home. I just wanted to finally be a family. After discharge, I continued to bargain as I watched Flynn struggle. I would do anything to take that pain and frustration away.
  4. Depression: I was withdrawn, scared, and not at all myself. I wasn’t the mother that I wanted to be nor the mother my son needed. Everywhere I looked for help, no one seemed to understand. I was alone in a dark place looking for the light. 
  5. Acceptance: I’m still learning each day why I was somehow chosen for this journey, but I have more appreciation for my own strength, tolerance, patience, ability to love, and determination. My journey as a preemie mom has given me the confidence to advocate, teach, share, and parent as mindfully as I can.  

I have bad days now and then, but there are no longer bad weeks or months. The path of my grief has not been an easy one, with many steps forward and backward. I know, though, that I was meant to be the mother to this beautiful little person, and we needed each other to get through such a traumatic and difficult time. We only exist as we are today because of the difficult, yet amazing, journey we took to get here. 

To my fellow NICU and preemie parents: I see you. Your feelings are valid. You will get through this.

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