Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Domestic Enemies of the Preemie Mom

This guest post comes to you from our VERY DEAR FRIEND Mandy. You might also know her as one of the team leaders from our Spark Team. Kate & I have an unnatural fondness for the women who run the Rants from Mommyland Team on Spark.  They are ...  amazing

Here's a little more about our beloved Mandy and her take on the enemies that moms of preemies deal with. Read more from her at: http://mandaroo-misinformed.blogspot.com/ 

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KateInMichigan wrote me a bio. "Manda is a snarky beeyotch who writes a blog about how she deals with her world. She's got a baby boy who earned his nickname "Edible," and it's a good thing that her mom is awesome because she really got the short end of the stick when it comes to the rest of her relatives. She's also a horse dork who will spew random horse facts at you when she's nervous."

When I had my baby, I wasn't expecting a preemie. I know, I know, most people don't expect to have a preemie. It just happens, for whatever reason. My doctor and I thought I was 41 weeks along, my baby had been in and out of fetal distress for a week or so, and the doctors decided to induce me. After a 20 hour labor that ended in a C-Section, I had a 4 pound 9 ounce baby boy.

He was whisked to the NICU and only had to stay a week. I know some moms are in there for months. So that’s why I'm writing this from my experience and also from my mother’s. My littlest sister (who is now 8) was born 3 months premature.

1. Other moms. I've had more insensitive comments from other moms then ANY other group of people. Surely not always on purpose, yet at times I’ve had to wonder... At a mom's group I visited one mom just flat out asked me if I smoked during my pregnancy. Nope. Not ever. (Had she smoked some crack right before she asked me that?) A friend who had her baby a week after me asks every time I post my child’s current weight "Aren't you feeding that kid?" That is so what you want to hear when your life revolves on those numbers on the scale. Thanks so much for being so encouraging and uplifting (and by that I mean I’m feeling encouraged to un-friend you and lift your thoughtless self up in prayer). Another mom at the La Leche League meeting listened to my story and then leaned forward, put her hand on my knee, and said in her best social worker voice, "You know, inductions cause fetal distress." (Thanks lady. I’ll be sure to use you for my OB the next time I have a baby. What? You’re not a doctor? Oh, well then suck it, Judgey.)

2. In-laws. My MIL was wonderful at distracting me from my anxiety in the NICU by embarrassing me to death. She would drone on and on about my son’s stats to a working mom who’d become a 3 month NCIU veteran before having the misfortune of occupying the space next to ours, and she never once let the poor woman share anything about her own child or their family’s struggles. When she was unable to shower our NICU neighbor with this kind of attention, I was treated to nit-picking of my diet while pregnant, speculation that I must have been drinking, and the brilliant theory that I hadn’t been walking enough.

3. The hospital. The NICU is a horrible and wonderful place. I've heard different opinions, but my experience with the staff was good. That being said, there is no escaping the fact that the stress and doubt and fear in that area of the hospital is so thick that it’s hard to forget where you are. Everything about the environment smothers and oppresses you with reminders that SOMETHING’S VERY WRONG. After delivering a preemie and being immersed in that, the preemie mom is then treated to a bizarre and paradoxical experience: being discharged from the hospital as if nothing out of the ordinary is going on. When you have a baby who has to stay while you have to go home, you just leave like a regular patient. My mother remembers how strange and wrong it felt when she left. She carried her own bags and stood in front of the hospital for a minute watching another woman get wheeled out with her new baby and family and a nurse. And all she got to take home was a polaroid of her baby and a heart full of doubt.

4. Old ladies. Old ladies like to stick their fingers in the mouths of all babies, I've found. You know, to feel them suck. You have to be all kinds of ninja to catch these old biddies; they are ready to sneak one of those yellow-nailed fingers right in your kiddo’s mouth before you can smack them with your diaper bag. You would think they'd know better.

5. Doctors. As your preemie gets older, there will be health and developmental problems you might have to overcome. I'm not saying all doctors are bad, but if you are unlucky enough to have a kid like my little sister you might face dental issues and Autism… And unfortunately not a lot of doctors and dentists are well-informed or up-to-date enough to know crucial things, like how a c-pap can damage your preemie's teeth still forming in their gums. You might find yourself having to be a detective/advocate/warrior for your baby through to adulthood. My mom always says she feels blessed that her daughter doesn't have more problems considering how premature she was.

My biggest reason for raising awareness about all the nefarious Domestic Enemies of the Preemie Mom is so that you don't become your own enemy. It wasn't your fault and you didn't do anything wrong. These things just happen. I'm trying to learn to deal with it, and nothing has helped me more than talking about it. I still catch myself wondering where I went wrong or what I did (Was it the cold cut sandwich that one time at 27 weeks? Was it falling off that horse at 9 weeks?)…

But now my son is here; he's healthy and happy and smart, and when I need it, I get a little help from my friends to remember that. So, when you are without your baby and just visiting at the hospital from time to time, remember: there is a group of moms who DO get it. Moms who are thinking the same things you are, asking the same questions, and who get equally excited when their baby hits 5lbs then 6, 7 and 8. Find your allies, Premie Moms – and you’ll discover the peace and confidence you were afraid you lost somewhere in the hospital.

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011

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