**Side note. I wrote this in July and just realized that I never published it. Oops.
Parenting is a difficult road. A long road. At times, a bumpy road.
Parenting is a lot of learning, about oneself. I learned more about myself and my husband during our two preemie experiences than I thought humanly possible. Going through those emotional, difficult times taught me about inner strength, spousal support and bonding, intense motherly instinct, and truly putting this tiny being first.
Our oldest was born at 30 weeks weighing 3.33 pounds and 16 1/2 inches long. He spent 57 days in Bronson’s NICU. During that time, he endured 2 surgeries, an ilestomy, and countless uphill battles. After 2 weeks, my husband returned to work. As hard as it was on me not having him there, it was harder on him to miss small milestones or medical setbacks. My daily routine was to pump every 3 hours, around the clock. Yes that produced a substantial milk supply. So much so that we filled 3 freezers full and had to donate a large amount, 800 ounces, to Bronson’s milk bank. Yes, I was a milk machine. But that was just a tiny part of M’s care.
Each morning I would leave the house at 7:00. Arriving at the hospital at shift change, sometimes I was able to get a nightly report. I stayed and participated in my son’s care until 2:00. I read stories and sang to him. Working along side the nurses, I took his temperature, changed his diaper, learned to care for his ostomy bag, listened to the beeps and whistles, but most importantly bonded with our son. Since he was not in my tummy to be nurtured, I wanted to do everything in my power to mother him. I did not take the “free childcare” that some families do. Unfortunately, some families must return to work while the little one stays. How sad that our healthcare system and government cannot provide extended parental time off. This preemie time is a fragile life and parental involvement is crucial to a preemies’ long term health. That is another story for another time.
In the afternoon, I would meet my husband at home and together we would head back. My husband would spend the evening in kangaroo care, reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear, attending to our son’s needs, but mostly getting papa time. Some nights we left at shift change, other nights after a quick dinner, we returned for a little more M time. As a gift my mom gave me a diary for this time. That preemie time was the best spiritual and soul-searching journey. Life is truly about more than just us.
M came home healthy, content, and kept teaching us valuable lessons.
2 and 1/2 years later, despite weekly injections, numerous medications, 5 weeks of bedrest and countless ultrasounds, we welcomed our 35 weeker, a girl. She weighed in at 5 pounds 13 ounces and spent 1 week in the special care nursery at Borgess. The wonderful hospital allowed me to stay in a room, provided meals, and supported our desire to nurture miss E. Due to our presence in her care, the staff blessed us with bringing her home earlier than expected.
Thankfully our third arrived without incidence and we were able to enjoy an amazing, stressfree birth. We say that our first was our miracle, our second our pleasant surprise, and number 3, our little shocker.
Being a preemie parent taught me incredible patience, ability to accept life’s path, and most importantly learn that parenting is a wonderful journey. I would never want another parent to experience a premature baby, but for me, I would not go back and say “I wish it never happened”. Learning the power of a preemie taught us immeasurable parenting skills.