Parent’s talk – The Journey of a Premie Parent
Hi there - I’m pleased to announce another guest blogger and friend, Jess Smith, willing to share her journey on mothering a beautiful girl, born prematurely. She is a teacher by profession and I love her willingness to encourage and guide others by being open and vulnerable. Another ‘hoped-for’ take back would be for parents of premies to realise that developmental delays can be expected and that there is an entire multi-disciplinary team ready, willing and able to assist with any speech, physical, gross or fine motor delays. Never feel ashamed to ask for help should you be concerned. Take a read:
Let me start off by saying this: Being a mom in general is no easy task but being a mom to a premie does also bring with it, its own unique set of challenges on top of the already challenging feat of motherhood.
Let me take you on the journey with me: It took Steve and I exactly 12 months to fall pregnant - No one tells you how difficult it is to fall pregnant until you start trying. The first trimester was horrible - all day sickness, feeling fat, bloated, annoyed and exhausted. Then came the second trimester - I fell in love with being pregnant, I loved my little baby pump; as well as the baby doing flick flacks and somersaults in my belly. As I watched my belly grow, I felt my abs getting stronger and stronger, or so I thought. I soon realised that the rock hard pregnancy abs were not abdominal muscles, but rather, constant Braxton Hicks (BH) contractions. Now there's nothing out of the ordinary when it comes to having BH during your second trimester, but it is worrying when your Gynea seems a little panicked by the frequency thereof.
The panic was not without cause, as we soon found out that I had something called a 'sensitive uterus'. This resulted in my uterus contracting when I sneezed, when I had a full bladder, when my baby kicked or even when I rubbed my belly. I was put on medication for a month, with no improvement and eventually landed up in hospital for 2 days, in an attempt to slow down the contractions. Unfortunately, there was nothing else the Gynea could do but call on an emergency C section at 30 weeks.
So, out came Daniella Jo Smith. What a little miracle. She spent 6 weeks in the Neonatal ICU (NICU). I don’t remember much during that time, as Steve and I were in complete survival mode. I suppose it looked something like this; wake up, pump, drive to hospital, sit, pump, sleep, pump, drive home, pump, don’t forget to eat, pump, sleep, repeat. I had to watch as my baby was tube fed with pipes up her nose. I had to look at her with drips in her little arms and feet. I watched as she was pricked twice a day, every day, on her heel to check her blood sugar. Although I knew it had to be done to keep her alive, it didn’t make it any easier to see. The hardest part for me was having to say my goodbyes every evening, leaving her in the hands of hospital strangers. The daunting question from friends and family "when is she coming home" ring loudly in my ears. A question I didn’t know how to answer.
Finally, the day arrived 6 weeks later, as we got to take our precious Dani home. Fastening this itty bitty thing into a car chair was quite terrifying and driving home was also something new. Eventually, though, we made it! We reached home. But then what? I guess, we just carried on like every other new family.
At the same time I had a hand full of friends whom also just had new-borns, which was great. We got together once a week during our maternity leave, shared stories, struggles and the joys of being a new mom. Everything was hunky dory until the milestone conversations. My friends shared how their little ones were smiling, or rolling, sitting on their own, starting to crawl and all those wonderful things our babies are meant to do. But not my little Dani, it's like she was still a new born, just eating, pooping and sleeping. I began to worry. I kept saying to myself and those around me; Yes I know, prem babies develop slower. Yes I know, I have to take her at her corrected age. Yes I know. Yes I know. YES I KNOW. But it was tough. I started to blame myself for my baby’s "delay". What did I do wrong? Could I have prevented her from coming early? I felt as though I had failed at being Daniella's mom, like I had made her different.
With time, my comparing got even worse. I tried to stop but watching as Dani's friends surpassed her in their development was painful. Although I was happy and excited for the others, my heart broke for Dani. You see, the world put these expectations on my sweet baby girl. The kind of expectations that she was unable to meet at a specific age, because of her early delivery. I was so fixated on what the world was saying, that I forgot to enjoy every single moment with MY baby, at her pace, during her phase. God gave me a different journey with my baby girl. A fun journey. An interesting journey. A remarkable journey.
Daniella had to go for several Physio Therapy sessions to help with the development of her spatial awareness, as she was unable to sit up from a lying position and couldn't stand up from a seated position. All she needed was a little help and a whole lot of love. Dani is now 18 months and is still not walking but she is a pro bum shuffler. She is loud. She is vivacious. She is perfect and she is fierce.
The only thing I regret about being a mom of a premie, is that I was too preoccupied on what the world said about her rather than fixating on what God says about her. I am excited to watch my baby develop. I am excited for her future. And I am excited to be completely focused on her journey.