Preemie parent mentor, Tracy, shares part two of her story. Be sure to read part one of her story.
I want to tell micro-preemie parents who are going through the NICU experience currently, or those that will be in the future, that once you leave the NICU the healing begins. I am not going to sugar coat that it is an easy road. It is a long road of figuring out who you are, who your child is, and what your new life together will look like.
As time passes and you get further away from the NICU, things do look different. You heal in places, you learn, you become a better person, you learn amazing things about your child, you appreciate your child in ways you never thought you would, you celebrate milestones, you recognize the little things you probably wouldn’t if it had come easy.
It is beyond rewarding and it can be beyond tough. It is a big lesson on perspective in life. The learning continues and there will be new experiences, new realizations, and even some roller coaster moments.
Two steps forward, one step backward.
There will also be great highs, great joys, and great amazement.
If any of you parents realize you are also breath holders, holding on to the worry and stress, I would like to highly recommend what I have found helpful.
1. If your NICU has a parent support group – go! It took me a while to get out of the denial that I had become a preemie parent and when I went and met other parents who had gone through it or are going through it, it was unbelievably helpful and supportive.
2. Graham’s Foundation is also another amazing resource that allows you to connect with other parents and look into the mentor program. There are so many ways to connect to preemie parents online. I did this on and off. I didn’t have the parent mentor resource when my daughter was in the NICU but now volunteering as a mentor on the other side, it has been very rewarding. I love helping and talking with other parents, and it is therapeutic for me as well.
3. Try to find a parent that you can connect with that had a preemie around the time you did but a few years older. I have a friend that had preemies born 24 weeks 3 years before my daughter and it was great to be able to call her with a question or have her give me what I should look forward to, or be concerned about.
4. If possible, find a group of moms who have had unexpected challenges with their children.When Chloe started preschool, we were lucky enough to send her to a therapy school. The moms I met whose children also went to that school have become some of my best friends. We meet once a month to have dinner and drinks. Besides being just fun and an excuse to get out, it is nice if we need to have any serious talks, we have each other. They help me release my breath.
5. Get yourself a good therapist – even if you only meet with them once a month. I have seen a therapist on and off since having my daughter. Some therapists are good, some are not so good. It is a matter of finding one that works for you, the one you feel comfortable with. Many insights and moving forward have come from meeting with my therapist.
6. Lastly, do something relaxing. I try to find time to have some mindful meditation at least a couple times a week (I mean let’s be real, I can’t seem to fit it in everyday), or I attempt a yoga class, or even a more special treat, get a massage!
As you can see, for me, it has taken some time to work through that big breath I took when my daughter was born. A big breakthrough for me was to realize that, just like every other child, mine will have her strengths and weaknesses. With every smile and every laugh, my heart warms. While I can have a storm in me of worry and stress, she loves life more than anyone I have ever met and makes me laugh on a daily basis.
The breath is now manageable. I can carry it and continue my life and recognize it. This was my unknown, the course of life I never imagined. Here I stand five years later and there are still triggers to the trauma and the memories. I feel lucky to have had the experiences I never would have, met the people I would have never, and have been amazed at what my daughter has over come.
I am am more aware of my breath and my body and what I need to do to let go.Maybe, one day, I will let go of all of it, all the air, all the tension will be released and I can breathe normally, but who am I kidding? I am a parent after all.