November 02, 2015

I Am a Preemie Mom. I am a Mom. #preemie #prematurityawareness

My daughter Isabelle was born feisty. She was a born fighter, stubborn and strong. She was also born too early. 10 weeks too early, to be exact.

On days when she is being extra testy, I pause and remember -- she is our miracle. We have been truly blessed with two beautiful girls, but Isabelle is indeed, our miracle baby.

And then I think about how lucky we were when Madeline was born, albeit still prematurely at 35 weeks. She came home with us, and required no NICU stay. I remember begging the nurse to allow her to come home with us -- I wasn't sure I could bear another stay in the NICU, even after such a positive experience we had with Isabelle.

I'm a preemie mom. Actually, I'm a (double) preemie mom. We are preemie parents.

We are PARENTS.

I've often written about Prematurity Awareness -- it is one of my "causes" after all. I vowed when Isabelle was born to be an advocate, to talk about my condition (HELLP syndrome) and to offer advice to other preemie parents. I didn't have anyone to really talk to, except for a few people I met at Sunnybrook and the wonderful nurses at Mackenzie Health. No one really understands, unless you've been there. Today, I meet and chat online with so many different moms who are preemie moms. Some have had the same condition as I did. We celebrate our miracle babies and the common thread of prematurity that aligns us.

November is Prematurity Awareness Month. It's a time where you'll really hear me toot my Preemie Mom horn and wear my purple hat proudly. I want people to know about what I went through, not to scare them or preach, but to show them that having a preemie is not the end of the world.

True, it may not be the way you wanted your baby's life to start, and it most certainly was not part of your birth plan. You likely didn't register for preemie size clothing, or knew how to calculate a baby's weight in grams versus pounds. You may not have even read about what to do if you had a premature child.

The fact is, 1 in 9 children in Canada is born prematurely (before 37 weeks). If you ask around, you're likely to find a preemie among your friends, or your friends' children.

And so, if you skipped those pages in the baby book, let me tell you: if you do have a premature baby, your life will become suddenly scary. It will be overwhelming, and guilt-ridden and exhausting. Nothing will feel "normal" -- whatever that means. You will be forced to catapult yourself into a world with beeps and wires, desats and spells.

If your preemie is your first child (like us), you wouldn't know any different. But if you have had a full-term baby followed by a prem, I can only imagine the added emotional and physical struggle.

You didn't choose this. I'm not sure who would. And having a premature baby is nobody's fault. I blame my placenta.

But you're here in the NICU and you are needed. You are mommy. You are daddy. You made this teeny tiny life.

And then something happens. It happens slowly and you may not even notice. Your itty bitty baby -- she will grow. And grow. And get stronger.

We are so fortunate in Canada (and in Toronto) to have excellent hospitals that can take care of preemies and micro-preemies. In time, most of them do come home. There may be challenges along the way, but that's no different than having a full-term baby. Kids come with challenges, and preemie babies are no different.

I can tell you having an older preemie following a 30 weeker was a breeze! No NICU stay, very few tests and a calmer experience all around.

So what's my point in all this? Prematurity does not define me as a mom, and it doesn't define my daughters. Quite the opposite, actually. It has always given me extra strength and drive; it has allowed me to ask tough, important questions, it has allowed me to pause and reflect.

I AM a preemie mom, and I'm not ashamed and feel no guilt associated with that title. I worked hard for it and I'm proud of my daughters, my husband and myself. But at the end of the day, I am a mom who happens to have two determined, strong babies, who, through no choice of their own, had an early start to life -- I call it "bonus time".

May nothing stand in their way.


2 comments:

  1. Antonella Caggianiello2 November 2015 at 22:01

    Thank you for spreading this awareness Julia. When my first born Sofia was born at 28 weeks I remember asking myself countless times, "why me?" And "what did I do wrong?" I suffered from ptsd as the birth was not as I had "planned". But Sofia was a little fighter and she is our miracle. We nicknamed her "scuba Sofia" because her breathing machine looked like she was wearing scuba gear. And I would do it all over again in a heartbeat if it meant the only way she was to enter our lives.

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  2. Hug. I get it. I was a zombie for weeks and didn't even post about my daughter's birth online for an entire week (and not one photo until she came home). I remember that scuba gear :) Isabelle ripped hers out every single day. She still hates when someone touches her nose!!

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