In case you have missed all the social media posts, November is Prematurity Awareness Month. This month, I’m going to attempt to write a handful of posts addressing topics that are not commonly thought about by non preemie parents.
There is a great deal involved in having a preemie that I was unaware of until I found myself a preemie mother. For example, I was caught off guard when I found myself crying in front of my baby’s isolette mourning losses I had not considered.
I have addressed the losses that I am currently dealing with in a prior post. This post is a list of the losses that were immediate after Charlie’s early birth.
1) The loss of a perfect pregnancy. I know, no pregnancy is perfect. In fact, pregnancy can be out right miserable. However, I looked forward to participating in the discussions of how hard the third trimester is, detailing my weird cravings, and having funny stories about being huge. I had plans to bob in the pool all summer, to let my husband feel my baby kick in my enormous belly, and to observe my belly grow as the baseball season progressed. I had maternity clothes that I wanted to wear and pregnancy pictures that I wanted to take.
None of that happened. Instead, I was barely pregnant. For most of which, I was very sick. I had only begun to feel Charlie flutter in my belly before she was delivered. I never got to wear my maternity clothes nor take the pregnancy pictures. I think all of this particular loss is exacerbated by my knowing that I will never be pregnant again. None of these things will ever happen for me.
2) The loss of my delivery story. I had imagined my baby’s birthday from the moment I knew I was pregnant. I pictured the expression on my husband’s face when I notified him that my water had broken or that I had gone into labor. I had envisioned the hectic drive to the hospital through Northern Virginia traffic and wondered if we would make it in time. I visualized the actual delivery and joked with my husband about the big day. I daydreamed about the moment it would be over and my perfect baby would be placed on my chest to be held.
Again, these things did not occur. I was hospitalized ten days prior to Charlie’s birth. Twice, my husband had been summoned to the hospital. Each time, I asked if we were having our baby. The nurse responded by carefully choosing the vague words, “If it were my husband, I would want him here.” The second time that phrase was uttered, my husband met me in labor and delivery.
That morning, I had an emergency c section with general anesthesia. I missed my baby’s birth and as did Charlie’s dad. I did not get to see my baby until two days after her birth. It was two weeks before I was able to hold her.
3) The loss of celebration. When a baby is born, there is usually a great amount of celebration surrounding the event. After our baby was delivered at 26 weeks gestation, we hardly heard a peep. It was as if she was greeted into the world with stunned silence. Very few people sent gifts, visited, or acknowledged that we had a baby. It felt like people watched silently as she clung to life. I felt invisible as I was wheeled through the hospital lobby with empty arms when I was finally discharged. In all of the scenarios that played in my mind, I had never imagined leaving the hospital with out my baby.
4) The loss of the life that we had planned. We had picked out our new dwelling in Falls Church. I pictured riding the Metro to museums and the National Zoo. We were going to have meals with friends that lived near Metro stations. We had a life planned and we looked forward to that life.
Unfortunately, that life was impossible after Charlie’s early delivery. Now, Falls Church evokes feelings of dread each time we return to the hospital. Even if that weren’t true, the logistics of preemie life are impractical in the earlier version of life we had planned. We were forced to find a new way.
While I’m happy with our new life, I still elegiacally look at the places we were supposed to live, shop, and eat. I breathe out in an inaudible whisper to myself, “That’s where we were supposed to go” each time I pass them.
5) The loss of relationships. I have lost many relationships after Charlie’s birth. There are several reasons for this. For one, it changed how I view relationships in general. Unfortunately, some of the higher maintenance relationships are no longer worth it to me. Another reason, is that I have much less energy to invest in relationships. A third reason is that the trauma has created a vast disconnect in several relationships.
On the other hand, there are relationships that have been strengthened. I have also been surprised by a handful of people who have gone above and beyond their roles. I have not lost faith in humanity… just in some of my relationships.
6) The loss of choice. Due to Charlie’s early delivery, many things were taken out of my hands. The choices that other parents often agonize over (breast milk or formula, attachment parenting, etc) were made for me due to medical necessity. Regrettably, with the loss of choice comes a feeling of powerlessness. To me, it was a huge blow. I suppose that is why it continues to anger me when people feel the need to tell me what they think is best for me, best for my baby, or what I need.
I am sure that I will think of more losses while the topic is fresh in my mind. Preemie parents, what would you add to this list?