Parenting in the Spotlight

We had to sit for a moment in the waiting room before Charlie’s first pediatrician’s appointment. There was one other mom and child there. The mom was supporting the child by the arms as the child stumbled around the waiting room.

When the pair worked their way to our location I asked “How old is she?” in order to break the awkward silence. The mother replied defensively, “Two years but she’s not walking because she had hip dysplasia.” I confessed that I didn’t notice that she was supposed to be walking. I explained Charlie was breech and she is being watched for hip dysplasia.

With that disclosure, she warmed up to me as if we had been friends for years. It was my first outing with Charlie after her NICU discharge the day before. I have a better understanding of that encounter now that I find myself concluding my answer to the age question with “but she was born at 26 weeks.”

Every parent at one point or another comes across someone that is critical of their parenting style. Many also feel pressure and stress from outsider opinions, ideas of what is best, or “the right way” to parent their child. I’ve heard or witnessed many horror stories. With a preemie, it feels like I have been parenting on stage since day one.

For the first 87 days of Charlie’s life, there was always someone watching while I held my baby, fed my baby, or changed my baby’s diaper. Currently, she is followed by multiple health professionals that follow every aspect of Charlie’s life. That is a stage that I don’t mind performing on. I have become quite comfortable with the scrutiny of medical professionals. I appreciate most of their suggestions or ideas. It is their job. I learn from them and find them useful. They help me understand my baby and parent her more effectively.

I wonder… why, with all this professional advice, other people feel they are the expert on my baby? I, like most parents, am flooded with unsolicited advice. This is the spotlight that I could do without.

I get criticisms on feeding, her size, and how I soothe her. I hear comments like “Babies need to be exposed to germs to build their immune system.”

People disclose obvious baby care advice as if they are privy to the information. I am critiqued on her involvement in Early Intervention. I’ve heard that I hold my baby too much or the wrong way. I am told by everyone, who must have read the same Web MD article, “Preemies catch up by the age of two”.

Suddenly, everyone has become a preemie expert and an expert on my baby. These people don’t understand the challenges micro preemies face. I am frustrated when what we have been through is dismissed as “no big deal”.

I will most likely smile pleasantly and nod in response to the annoyances. I save my strength to fight for insurance approvals, to fight for program qualifications, and to endlessly search for ideas that will work for my baby.

I’m turning off the spotlight. I’m making this known: If I want to know, I will ask.

Otherwise, keep it to yourself. I had a plan how this was supposed to all work out. This is plan B or plan C or even plans D, E, or F. Plan A didn’t work for us. Quit reminding me or making me explain why.

Many parenting decisions were made for me out of medical necessity or my baby’s preference rather than my decision.

Furthermore, maybe I don’t want what you want for my baby. I don’t agree with or think the way you do. There are more ways than one right way to do things.

Finally, I know how to do things that I wish I didn’t know about. In order to take my baby home from the NICU, I had to learn how to put in an NG tube (in case she wouldn’t feed), how to visually assess my baby’s O2 saturation, how to give an injection (in case she continued her epo treatments long term), respiratory care, etc. I took optional classes in infant development and infant massage. Basic care advice was covered thoroughly in the early days. I don’t need a refresher.


About Rebecca Wood

In May 2012, my pregnancy ended three and a half months early due to severe early onset preeclampsia. This is my collection of thoughts and media. It is an attempt to document and discuss our experience of navigating the post NICU world. View all posts by Rebecca Wood

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