PREEMIE FACTOIDS

Did you know that over 450,000 babies are born premature in the United States every year? And 15,000,000 worldwide. Because of their early arrivals preemies are more susceptible to a myriad health issues including apnea, PDA (Patent Ductus Arteriosis ) and RDS (Respiratory Distress Syndrome ). But technology and science continue to evolve. In fact, a preemie born today has a much greater chance at survival compared to only 10 years ago.  Keep checking back for more factoids.

Just Get Over It!

 "Just get over it!"

A friend said that to me once.

"Just get over it. Maybe you need professional help or something. it's not normal that you still talk about Isabelle being a preemie." Is it normal? I don't know. It's my normal. I don't feel like I need professional help. I just feel like a Mom who started motherhood in a very scary and dramatic way; it defined me as a mother. It changed me. I think that's okay!

My NICU journey was preceded by an incredibly difficult and terrifying birth. I walked (actually pushed in a wheelchair) into the NICU 26 hours after birth, after recovering from multiple organ failure, after nearly losing my life on my 27th birthday, and after watching my daughter come out blue, limp, and not breathing. I don't believe anyone goes through an experience like this and just gets over it. And I don't know if I want to get over it. In the midst of the experience, I was mad! I wanted my full-term, un-medicated, low-lighting, set-to-soft-music birth. Dammit, I was jipped! I wanted to go home two days after birth with a chubby, rosy-cheeked baby. Every day in the NICU was awful, even good days, were still awful, because I didn't get to bring my girl home.  

As time went by, I came to see my experience differently. I saw it as part of who I am. And, I would not be who I am today without it. I found my voice in that NICU. I became a fierce protector of my child. I learned how to educate myself on things I never thought I would know about. I learned to say, "no." Whoa, that was a biggie. "No, mother-in-law, you cannot come to NICU at 10 pm, then get mad when your son doesn't want to go out drinking with you." I'm stronger because of the NICU. Did you hear that? Me. I AM STRONG! That was never a word I associated with myself until the moment I lived through the words, "if your daughter lives through the night..." I would guess that I am not alone. Raise your hand if you too feel stronger since your NICU experience. Would you change that? Oddly, as awful as it was, now, 16 years later, I wouldn't want to change it.  

How could I "get over" the single most life-changing event in my life? Heck, just becoming a mother is life-changing, right? Without my traumatic birth and NICU stay, I wouldn't have become an advocate for preemie families or a breastfeeding peer-counselor. I wouldn't have learned how to speak up to "experts" on my child's behalf, I wouldn't have met some of the people I now have in my life, including my dear friend, Beth, LBF's founder. That's all priceless. 

When my daughter was born, I couldn't wait to tell my best friend. However, she was in France at the time. So, I called her mom knowing she would most likely talk to Becky and pass on the news. I started the conversation with, "everything is going to be ok...." But, my best friend's mom is also the mom of a preemie. She jut started sobbing before she could hear me. She just kept saying, "Christine, I'm so sorry. I know how you feel. I hope she's ok." Clearly, she's "not over it" 27 years later. My own mother is also the mom of a preemie (Me!). She still remembers those early days. Every March 31st she tells me again the story of my scary birth and my journey in the NICU before surfactin and when ventilators were brand new for infants. In fact, one thing she has told me many, many times that she (a labor and delivery nurse) had never seen a baby as sick as me live. That was in 1973. She's still "not over it." Today, we share our NICU stories. We relive those scary moments. Both of us became mothers to preemies on March 31, so you can imagine the trip down memory lane in our family every year.

When I relive my NICU experience, I'm not dwelling on it. I'm not feeling sorry for myself or Isabelle. I'm celebrating a huge victory! We overcame something pretty darned incredible! I look at my preemie and see how strong she is. I see a bright, happy, kind, loving, witty, sarcastic, funny young lady who at one point was expected to not survive, then to be "profoundly delayed or impaired". We survived! Not only did I survive, but I am not on dialysis, I didn't need a kidney and/or liver transplant. We survived. I am healthy and I had 3 more healthy pregnancies. I'd say we have a lot to celebrate! So, no, I won't get over it. I want to remember where we were, how hard we fought, how far we came. Sure, I sometimes remember and feel sad or overwhelmed. Those memories come rushing back and I remember the fear and sadness. But, one look at my beautiful 16 year old and I feel nothing but joy and victory!  

So, the next time someone tells you to "get over it." Tell them, "No way! I'm proud of how kick-ass we NICU parents and babies are." Tell them you both got where you are kicking and screaming (sometimes quiet literally) and you are grateful for the journey that brought you where you are now.  And, if your NICU experience is still new, trust me when I say, that it will never leave you, but it will become something different. It will become something special about you and your baby. It will become a source of empowerment and strength. It is your story, own it! And, if you need to talk about it, we here at LBF love NICU stories and would love to know yours.

Love and Hugs from this preemie mom and now the mother of a 16 year old.

GULP.

Christine is the mom of four children.  She is a supporter of preemie families and a breastfeeding peer-support counselor.