The Emotional & Physical of Premature Birth

I always get the question, that doom filled look in the other person’s eye as they ask it and wince as if I’ll rip their head off when they ask…what is it like to deal with a preemie baby, how do you deal with it? Is it hard?

You can liken it to asking a heavily tattooed person did it hurt and the reaction you might get from them – the answer? It hurts but a preemie hurts on a different level. It is emotional that turns almost physical. The guilt, the what ifs, the questioning, the why me…

What is it truly like to have a prem (the term that Neonatal nurses use)? You question every little detail of your pregnancy and doubt your veracity to healthy choice and not so healthy choices you made during that pregnancy. The self doubt eats at you and you wonder what if I did such and such, or didn’t do this would it have been different? Logically, you know in your mind that you could not prevent the situation but in your heart you feel the doubt, the illogical emotional response of why could I not provide for my baby with my body the healthy and strong environment he\she needed the most. Then you start to doubt your own parenting abilities – if I could not do this for my baby physically then how can I be, truly be the parent I should be. The guilt is enormous. It’s a mountain that seems insurmountable at times and impossible at others.

Then it’s the hospital visits to the neonatal unit, the late nights, the struggles, the painful breast pump, the bleeding nipples, the emotional strain, the painful self esteem breakers, the set backs, the jumps forward – the joy and sadness. All of it a whirlwind of emotions, physical stresses and mini triumphs as well as the mini set backs.

Medications, neonatal terms, lactation consultants and nurses, doctors – conflicting advice – the there there attitude, it’s not so bad you know heartless comments. Sometimes you feel the nurses are cold because it’s their daily job and at other times the wonders of a heartfelt pat on the shoulder from one of them brings up your emotional strength. It’s a tornado of emotions at best and a tsunami at worse.

But when the journey finally comes to a pivotal point of ending and that beautiful little angel is finally home those emotional roller coaster rides seem to be replaced with the daily grind of chores, child rearing and the subtle doubts you once had whispering in the back of your mind. Does one ever recover from having a preemie baby – no, not likely but I can say that we learn to grow through the experience of it and learn to love that preemie as much as we love our other full term babies. They are special in a way full term babies cannot be (but full term babies are not any less than they are, mark my word they are equal) – it is the way we grow differently through the turmoil of neonatal care compared to bringing home a full term baby, it is a different bond rather than a better one. One that, as much as a full term, will stand the test of time just as much and just as long – forever and a day.

Is it harder to bond with a preemie baby? Yes and no. It’s no more strong than what I have with my full term babies and yes because of what we went through. It’s a double edge sword and hard to explain really…

My preemies were 29 weeker and 33 weeker. My second child nearly ended up a 24 weeker but alas due to a wonderful medical staff she was only 9 days early to my great and relieved joy!

I find I have a hard time bonding with my oldest (he’s the 29 weeker) as a first time mom it was hard to bond with a baby that had been removed from me to a NICU and seperated for such a long time. Not what I imagined our first time parenting experience would have been. It was hard to sit there in the hospital bed with a baby who’d been transfered many miles away and watch all the other moms with their babies in room (they stuck me on the maternity ward with the other moms with their babies). That was the most hardest and emotionally devistating experience (twice over) I’ve ever had! It was quite insensitive to stick me with moms who had their babies bedside. I’ve never really recovered from that feeling.

Eventually, I had recovered from the sense of distance from my 29 weeker preemie. We’ve come full circle and enjoy each other and our bond is very strong.

Short answer (I guess lol) is that the bond isn’t there right away – what needs to be done to secure their health and take care of them in the NICU comes first (of course out of love for that child) then the bonding begins afterwards when the preemie is stronger and healthier and you know they are not going to die in the NICU. When you get a preemie home is when you can breath that sigh of releif and then start bonding on an emotional level.

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