Monday, March 17, 2008

the loss of a normal, natural childbirth

time has made space for a great deal of joy in my life

but it would be dishonest to say that the first few weeks, hell months, after callum was born were normal.i grieved the loss of a normal birth when i had a preemie, everything about it was unnatural. part of processing it and moving to a place of gratitude was in recognizing my feelings, and seeking out other women online who had preemies as well.

the following list was taken from a website discussion among mothers of preemies. it made all the difference to me.

-Don’t tell me about how lucky I am to not have to go thru the last month or two of pregnancy.
-Don’t tell me how a cesarean-section is so much easier and I’m lucky I had to have one.
-Don’t tell me how it’s ‘no big deal’ and everything will be fine because people have preemies all the time and they are just fine.
-I’ve been through something traumatic. My body has failed me at a very primal level to have a preemie.
-Research is great. Educating yourself is awesome. Please do not act like you are an expert on the subject because you read something on the internet or know a friend of a friend. Each baby is unique and different, and as such my baby may not fit into what you have read. Please do not attempt to teach me about my baby.
-Please don't ask when my child is finally going to "catch up" with other children. I DON'T KNOW! Try to focus on what my child can do, not what they can't.
-I appreciate that you had a close friend or family member with a baby in the NICU and you have seen a NICU baby before. I hate to sound harsh, but if it wasn't your baby you really cannot completely understand how I feel.
-Don’t compare my child and her development to other preemies. It may give them hope but there will be other things that can happen to that baby that didn’t happen to my baby.
- Don’t expect me to answer your call or return it within the first 4 weeks of my preemie's arrival.
- Don’t ask about doll clothes.
- PLEASE, PLEASE don't tell me that my baby is so big, and already caught up that couldn't possibly have been in the NICU.
- Don't then ask me why my baby isn't doing such-and-so yet, so-and-so's baby is doing it who was born within days...
- Don't tell me how "lucky" I am to have a small baby...I didn't WANT a small baby...
- Never compare my baby to a runt
-Ask me questions! There's a lot about preemie care and NICU life that people don't understand, not to mention questions about my baby's condition. Don't be afraid to ask me...most of the time I am willing to answer and explain because talking about it helps me understand it too, and if you understand more then you can be more supportive.
- Also if I am crying it isn't Post Partum Depression, it's because all my hopes and dreams for a healthy pregnancy, vaginal delivery and healthy baby have blown up. I don't need medication, I need support!
-That said, mommies of Preemies/Nicu babies are at high risk for Post Partum Depression. Please keep an eye on me, without smothering me, and help me get needed support and treatment if PPD does hit me.
-Ignore the tubes and wires and tell me he is beautiful. Because he is.
-Please don't preach to me. If you have not been here as the mother of a sick baby, you don't know anything about this.
-I'm still a new mom. I'm hormonal. Please be kind to me, and give me lots of breaks for any bad behavior.
-I'm tired. Please don't say "be glad your baby is in the hospital" or anything like that. I am not sleeping well; I'm either up pumping or worried for my baby.
-Please don’t ask what I did to cause this.
- Please don't ask questions I can’t answer, like will my baby ever be "normal".
- Please ask how I am, I may need a shoulder.
-PLEASE don't try to tell me that you understand, because unless your child/baby is sick, you truly, honestly DON'T.
-Please don't tell me about another smaller, younger baby who is 'just fine' because every baby is different, has had different circumstances in utero, and frankly, isn't my baby.
- Please don't say clich├ęd phrases like, "if it was meant to be...", no baby is meant to be born early and sick.
- Thank you for the congratulations but please don't pretend that everything is wonderful right now and I should be a glowing new mother.
- Waking up every three hours to pump is not restful, and it is much, much harder than waking up next to your sweet newborn baby.
- I'm not "over it" and I might not ever be. Try not to be awkward, change the subject, or roll your eyes if I still get emotional about my daughter's birth and NICU experience 2 years later.
- Don't ask when I'm having more children, or if I will try for a boy, or nod knowingly and say 'It is probably for the best" if I say we are done having children.
- Don't disappear off the face of the planet after my baby is born. If you are scared of the hospital, tell me. If you don't know how to deal with me in a fragile state, let me know it is tough for you. But walking away completely...makes me feel that you were never my friend, especially if you try to come back into my life after 6 months of not talking to me.
- Don’t give me a hard time because I didn’t tell you details about whatever was happening. It was hard enough for me to understand and discuss w my dh.
-I don’t have the time or emotional energy to deal with your drama. Please keep it to yourself.
- Do drop off a care package of tabloid magazines, anything you know I like to read or something I like to do to pass time. Pumping rooms are so lonely and need something to read. Besides, the nurses also like tabloids and it takes the edge off sometimes.
- Please don't judge me if nursing is not going well. I'm trying. It is very hard to pump. My time is so tight, and pumping is just one more time and emotional demand on me. If I ask for help, please give it. It is emotionally draining. I'm tired.
- If I ask for help with pumping/nursing and you know the answer, please help me. If you don't than say so. Please don't guess and give me bad advice.
- Please don't talk about how easy it was for you to breastfeed and pump.
- Don't ask me how I intend to feed that teeny baby with my chest

...and 11 months later many of these points still ring true, even though i am so grateful and blessed to have a healthy, happy child.

but it is simply not a normal experience. it was incredibly lonely, and isolating. becoming a mother of a preemie, even though he is doing well, is just a different experience. the sadness comes from being separated from your child at the moment of his birth - when you both need each other the most.

and there is joy that he doesn't seem to carry any ill effects of being born early, but the sadness needs to be acknowledged too.

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