In honor of Prematurity Awareness Month, I thought I would share my own story of prematurity.
Spoiler alert: It is not about my own child. It’s me! Oh, and my brother. We were both preemies in a time before so much technology existed that saves thousands of infants each year.
The struggle was, and still is, very real for the parents of premature infants. My mother and father lived by an incubator waiting to take both of their babies home.
I was the firstborn — a baby girl born in 1969 at 33 weeks. My father was fresh out of the Marines and mom was a nurse. They were so excited and scared. My mother had experienced a couple of prior miscarriages and lived with that fear close to her heart while she carried me. Dad said I was so small he could hold me in one hand. After two weeks in an incubator and several scary moments, my parents were able to take me home. My father held me in his one giant hand as they watched Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. “One small step…” and all. I grew up strong and relatively healthy, not running any marathons, but still can’t complain.
My Brother’s Story
My brother was welcomed into this world at 32 weeks and spent time in an incubator as well. When he was born his heart had a murmur and we would find out later that he had a cranial malformation at birth that would be life threatening. He struggled so much more as a newborn than I did, but he persevered to become one of the strongest and healthiest people I know. Interestingly enough, he does run marathons and completes triathlons today. I am so proud — and so are our parents.
What Sets Preemies Apart
So besides taking a stroll down memory lane, there is a point my stories. I think premature infants are often born with a will to live that rivals the most heart-wrenching movie plot you could imagine. It must be something innate. I hear stories all the time about how hard children had to fight when faced with obstacles and less than desirables situations.
Handling the Situation When It’s Your Reality
I know having a premature infant is not ideal and one of the scariest things for parents, but if you find yourself in this situation, keep the faith. There is not much a parent can do but be there. Maybe that is the worst part … the waiting and feelings of helplessness. Despite the technological advances today that my parents didn’t have 40 years ago, the similar feelings still ring true — the desire for a healthy baby, the wish for the best care, the hope to take your baby home soon, the dreams for a normal life.
My heart goes out to every parent who has sat by an incubator.
Every parent that waited.
You were strong … you are strong. And even if your child doesn’t realize it now, one day they will. They will come to understand your first act of parenting was one of the hardest because you could not control the outcome. You were selfless. You trusted the wellbeing of this tiny person you loved more than life to a group of medical professionals that didn’t know what it was like to carry and know our every movement before you were born.
And in turn, they’ll understand what parenting is all about — selfless love and putting the needs of your child before your own. And how ultimately, as a parent, seeing your child healthy and happy is the best gift you could ever ask for. It’s not a struggle. It’s not a burden. It’s a part of the up’s and down’s in life’s journey — and how being a part of their life is worth it all.