Meet Maureen, Preemie Parent Mentor
My preemie(s) was born at: 23 weeks (and my second child was born at 36 weeks)
Parent of Multiples: No
Our journey included: hospital bedrest, extreme prematurity, micropreemie issues, months in the NICU, pumping in the NICU, transitioning to breastfeeding, balancing premature birth and a career, home heart monitoring, home breathing monitoring, incompetent cervix, managing a second pregnancy with an incompetent cervix, cerclage, gestational hypertension, preeclampsia, postpartum preeclampsia
I am here as a resource to other parents of micropreemies. You are not alone on your journey.
I unexpectedly began labor with my first child at 20 weeks due to an incompetent cervix we never saw coming. Medical intervention and strict hospital bedrest allowed me to hold out a few critical weeks longer until my daughter was born at 23 weeks. I remember the first time I saw her she was so incredibly small that I was afraid to touch her. I knew nothing about micropreemies, but I wanted to learn everything I could.
We spent three months in the NICU, which started out as the scariest days of my life. I remember wondering if there was light at the end of the tunnel. I hoped so, but I couldn’t see it yet. I clung to every shred of hope I could find, and little by little, she grew stronger. It takes time, but all the little steps can add up to big steps. We were discharged shortly before my due date. She came home on heart rate and breathing monitoring equipment, but within 6 months at home she had graduated from that too.
The advice I give new micropreemie parents is to focus on something positive each day. Keep track of the tiny milestones. Form relationships with the NICU staff. Allow friends and family to support you, and ask for any help you need. Also, take a picture of your micropreemie every day. One day in the not too distant future you will want to look back on how far you have come.
My second child was born three years after my micropreemie. This time my medical team took every precaution they could to manage my incompetent cervix, including a cerclage placed at 12 weeks and weekly progesterone shots. It worked and we beat my incompetent cervix, but then around 34 weeks I suddenly developed gestational hypertension. I spent a couple weeks on modified bedrest, but it eventually developed into preeclampsia, so I was induced at 36 weeks. I delivered a healthy baby, with no NICU time needed (although personally I dealt with some postpartum preeclampsia issues).
And throughout all of this, I was a partner at a law firm, continuing to work even while I was on bedrest with my first and my second babies. (It sounds crazy, but having something to distract you while on bedrest or in the NICU can be cathartic.) I am happy to talk to anyone that would like to discuss balancing a career while on bedrest, in the NICU or parenting a micropreemie.
The micropreemie journey can be like walking through a mine field for both preemies and their families. The moms and dads of the earliest babies celebrate not only the milestones, but also the minutes. Every hour in the early days is hard won. Every milestone met, a triumph. A micro-preemie parent’s courage and resilience may be tested to the very limits. The struggle may feel never-ending, but it’s important that parents know they are never alone.