To the mother of the preemie. Not the father, not the friend, cousin, grandmother, or Pastor. To the mother only.
Preemie mother, you are special. You have joined a sisterhood that not all get to join. Welcome to the club. I pray your preemie grew up to be strong, healthy and independent. I pray for you if they didn’t. All mothers of preemies understand the abyss they stare into. They feel the agony of being on the precipice of life and death. We watch these tiny babies fight to be here. Sometimes they stay. Sometimes they do not, but that makes you no less of a preemie mom.
It is okay to feel robbed of childbirth. Perhaps you didn’t get the chance to push and breathe, scream, yell and cry as you delivered your baby and have him immediately placed on your chest and he knew it was you. You were his mom. Your preemie baby was probably whisked away, while you lay there, in a drug-induced fog. Maybe you were fighting for your own life. It’s okay to feel cheated.
It’s okay that you didn’t get to bond right away and you had to fight to introduce yourself to your precious angel. Maybe you feared this tiny baby and felt disappointed that you had to bring a life into the world this way. Unfair. No one warned you. No one told you what it was like to be in this situation. But that doesn’t mean that you were disappointed in this child, in any way.
Every milestone is different for your child. They are off the charts when they are born because they are so tiny that they literally don’t fit on the chart. It’s okay if you feel sensitive to the reality of how small your baby is. It’s okay if you are offended that when you are out and about with your 12-week-old baby, someone questions why you would bring a newborn to Target and you defensively respond that your baby is actually three months old, so there – take that. It’s okay that doctors are more watchful and nervous about your child-rearing ways. It’s okay if you were unable to breastfeed for fear that your child would lose weight, so you pumped preemie formula into their bellies instead.
It is okay that you need to talk about this experience openly and freely. You’re not trying to brag or scare other women. For this secret, sacred sisterhood is not tread upon lightly. It’s okay if you worry and fret over every single breath your child takes. It’s okay if you wonder if your child will crawl, ever eat baby food, learn to walk or talk. It’s okay to wonder if they are developmentally sound. It’s okay to take them to the doctor’s office every time they sneeze. It’s okay to be under so much stress and late to the bonding party that you are not confident what your baby’s cry means.
It’s okay to question yourself and lash out at anyone who dares defy you in the rearing of this tiny soul. They may not have stood where you have. They may not have been late to the party, playing catch-up. You are so special. You probably understand what it feels like to sacrifice your own life for this little one because maybe you almost did. You know the heartache of going home without your baby and trusting that strangers would keep her safe. You see, trust is hard for you to come by when it involves this little one.
It’s okay to feel primal and animal-like over this child. Maybe you almost watched them die and you’ll do anything, for the rest of their lives, to ensure they live. Don’t guilt yourself, mama, if you cave or give-in to this precious one or struggle with admitting they could ever do anything wrong. Others may not understand that you recognize the beauty in moments, so you celebrate them. Don’t fight yourself. In your eyes, this baby has overcome every obstacle. The fact that they are living and breathing and thinking is kudos to you. Because you fought for every breath they took. You fought the urge to attack the people who made you leave the hospital and made your baby stay. You fought nature, my sweet lady. You fought to nurture your baby amidst the wires and cords and you prayed day and night that they would know you and know how deeply you loved them. More than any mother would understand. Ever.
It’s okay to feel like no one understands the pain you still carry. For you have survived trauma, much like the soldiers on our battlefields. It is perfectly alright to get the support and help of others and wave the flag and surrender to the grief of it all. It’s okay to cry and mourn this experience. It’s also okay to feel proud and know that you can truly accomplish anything in life because you birthed a preemie.
Your heart aches for any and every preemie mother. It’s okay that you cringe and quickly scroll past the pictures of other preemie babies in your Facebook news feed. You absolutely cannot bear to look at this because it brings back too much anxiety, pain, and worry. For it is not that you don’t want to support other moms in this situation, maybe you simply can’t yet. It is okay to feel guilty because your child survived and someone else’s did not. It’s okay to ask, “Why me? Why not her?” and never know the answer.
Every birthday your child celebrates is a miracle to you and you cry, and that is okay too. You cry because you and your preemie move further and further away from the truth. It’s okay to outgrow your story and forget the pain. It’s okay to only celebrate the joys and allow your preemie to enter a normal childhood.
You are special, preemie mom, chosen to love your child a little differently. Chosen to slowly watch a miracle unfold so that others might believe in miracles. When the feelings need to fade, they will, but don’t you ever deny yourself the right to help, laughter, happiness and working through the grief. Good gracious, give yourself a break. You too are a miracle. You are a preemie mom.