There are so many losses that occur when one has a preemie. I became aware of my first loss when I had to leave the hospital without my baby. The toll kept mounting from there.
I did not get to wear any of my maternity clothes. Nor, did I get to take pregnancy pictures. I missed out on bonding time with my baby in the womb and as a newborn. There are countless things that preemie moms are robbed of. Some of my losses sadden me to this day.
To think, I was one of the lucky ones… my baby came home.
After I stumbled my way through the shock and grief of my baby’s early delivery, I tumbled head first into mourning. It was difficult for me to get up from the blow.
My sadness became such an issue that: I found a way to bypass all those moms taking their new babies home by taking the long route up to the NICU each morning. I changed grocery stores and hid from my neighbors in order to avoid the explanation of why I was no longer pregnant or relay (and relive) the day’s events in the NICU for each individual.
I secretly hated and was envious of all the complaints posted about newborn parenting life that popped up on my Facebook news feed. It took most of my baby’s NICU stay (88 days) to work through much of the mourning.
After two months, my baby was transferred to a closer hospital. There, the NICU had private rooms and it helped immensely. I got back some of the things such as my privacy, my dignity, and special moments with my baby. By the end of her stay, I had almost come to terms with what I had lost. I was not ready to give up anything else.
But, I had heard stories from preemie veterans. I had heard how the isolation and infection control measures of the first year home can be just as demoralizing or even worse than the NICU experience. The time of quarantine like measures is often referred to as “lock down”. I refused to surrender my first year with Charlie to it.
At one of my baby’s first appointments with her pediatrician, I asked her about the rules for home life (my baby came home at the start of RSV season in September). After the NICU, I was accustomed to the excessive hand washing and the sanitizer. We had to limit our contact with people and public places. I inquired about going outside and was told it was fine. Armed with this information, I was able to come up with a plan.
Our state has thirty six state parks. Each one is beautiful, unique, and basically vacant on week days in the off season. In between appointments, we decided to visit each one.
With a newly acquired jogging stroller and a one year pass, we set off.
We have visited eleven so far (most parks more than a few times). We have hiked over three hundred miles, had many adventures, and saw some amazing sights. It started out as a whim and a way to pass RSV season while avoiding “lock down”.
However, now it is important to me that we finish and visit all thirty six parks. By doing this, I am giving the finger to the whole preemie experience… Prematurity can take away the infant experience as I planned it. Nevertheless, we are rocking it out and having a great time.
Before we got the jogging stroller, here is where it began Sky Meadows State Park.
Mason Neck State Park
We had reached 100 miles at Shenandoah River State Park.
From our first weekend get away at Occoneechee State Park.
Kiptopeke State Park
First Landing State Park
UPDATE: As she got older, she there was so much more she could do at the parks…
Sensory play at Shenandoah River State Park
Swinging at Chippokes Plantation State Park.
Practicing standing (for the first time) in the stump garden at James River State Park.
As of 10/10/13, we have visited 17 of the 36 state parks. See also: One Third Complete