…But what if trusting your gut had failed you once before?
As a mother to two daughters, shouldn’t I be a parenting expert by now, or nearing a certification of some sort? After all, the advice we received from experienced parents when we are expecting our first child, all the parenting books we read in preparation of their arrival, after we spend every minute of every day staring at our child, when it comes to baby number two, it should be a breeze…. right?
My oldest was four years old when we found out we were expecting, an April Fool’s Day surprise. As we had struggled for years with fertility issues and a miscarriage, we kept the news to ourselves for the first trimester. After the first trimester, like many, we began to relax a little bit, thinking we were in the “safe zone.” In hindsight, I had an easy pregnancy.
It was not until a regular checkup at 29 weeks (about 6 and a half months), I was told my blood pressure had skyrocketed. We were asked to come back to the office the next day to have my blood pressure checked again. On the way out of the office, a nurse reiterated the importance of calling the after-hours number if I had any symptoms whatsoever.
About one in the morning, I woke up with a horrible headache. I took some Tylenol and was about to lay back down when my husband told me I should call the after-hours number. I told him it was not needed because I would be seeing the doctor at 9 am the following morning. He pushed for me to call, so I eventually gave in and dialed the number. They asked me to go to the hospital for a blood pressure check. Moments later, I was strapped to a bed and told that I would be delivering the baby ASAP, in order to save my life.
That night was terrifying for me. Fortunately, for my sake and for my daughter’s sake, they were able to help regulate my blood pressure, allowing her to grow for 3 more days before making her grand arrival on 9/1/2019 at 29 weeks and 6 days.
IF I HAD TRUSTED MY GUT AND WENT BACK TO BED UNTIL MY 9 AM APPOINTMENT THE FOLLOWING DAY, WHO KNOWS WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED?
Fortunately, my husband made the right decision for my health and our unborn child.
Being a Preemie Mom has changed my life. For months, well to be honest the past two years, I have struggled with the amount of guilt that came along with this title. The “what-ifs.”
- WHAT IF I would not have called the after-hours number because of a headache?
- WHAT IF riding a baby waterslide at Holiday World the week before with my oldest caused me to deliver early?
- WHAT IF I was not eating the right foods, drinking enough water, exercising enough? Would it have made a difference?
- WHAT IF I made a mistake by focusing my prayers before surgery on my survival so I could get home to my oldest? Why was the health of my youngest not my top priority? As a mother, shouldn’t we always put our kids before ourselves? (I am still processing my feelings on this one…. it is one of my worst moments as a mom. Why was my top priority not my unborn child?)
The guilt did not stop after she was born. I now had to work through the guilt I had for not being the first person my daughter felt, the first one she got to see. Due to my own medical challenges, I was not able to see my daughter for about 48 hours. I was terrified. I did not want to go to the NICU to see her. I was told the risk to myself and to my daughter’s survival rate prior to surgery. Would it make it easier to handle the possible loss if I did not let myself feel connected to her? What if I choose to never meet her, would that help lessen the pain that I was feeling in that moment?
I forced myself to go up there. It is a scary place, alarms, cords, so many physicians, parents that look drained. It was terrifying, but I did it. Everything started to change when I was allowed to touch my daughter for the very first time. I knew in that moment that we had a long road ahead of us, but I could feel her strength, the power of prayer, and knew that she needed me to be as strong as she was for us to come home as a family of four.
I am so incredibly fortunate for her primary medical team. Her nurses, respiratory therapists, nurse practitioners, and her doctors not only helped her find her strength but helped me as I processed the trauma that we had both been through.
My daughters are now six and two and a half. While I thought I would certainly be a parenting expert by now, that is certainly not the case. Not even close, but I hope that by sharing some of my personal take-aways, I can help other preemie parents navigate their own personal journey.
- The prematurity journey does not end when you walk out of the hospital for the first time with your preemie. Phase two begins. As scared as you were on Day 1 of the NICU, some of those feelings will come back to you, but you have just witnessed how strong both of you are. You can (and will) handle whatever comes your way.
- A piece of advice from one of my favorite nurses, “Whatever you are feeling right now is exactly how you are supposed to be feeling. If you are happy and want to laugh, laugh. If you are scared and need to cry, cry. If you are mad, that is okay.” That piece of advice was instrumental to me as I navigated our 73-day (about 2 and a half months) NICU stay, but still plays a role in my day-to-day life today.
- It is true, the little things, are just little things, but all are worth celebrating. I am in complete awe of not only my youngest as she figures out new milestones, but I stop and slow down to appreciate the milestones my oldest has figured out, as well.
- It is okay to be vulnerable, especially with your immediate family. It became apparent that both, my husband, and I, were trying to be strong for the other and both of us were struggling. It was not until we brought our daughter home that we began healing together. There is trauma for all involved…. lean IN, not outward.
- You never realize how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.
- YOU ARE NOT ALONE. The hospital had a social worker that would come in and check on me often. I was not ready to talk about the trauma that we had experienced so I always responded with “I’m fine.” It took a late-night Google search, about four months in to our journey, for me to find Graham’s Foundation. I was connected to a parent mentor, who helped me tremendously. Simply hearing, “We had a similar experience. It is hard…. I understand how you are feeling” was exactly what I needed to hear. Help and resources are available…. please take advantage.
While I am still working to trust my mother’s intuition again, I celebrate the growth that I have had over these past two and a half years. Our prematurity journey, while scary and an emotional rollercoaster at times, has made us who we are today. We have a new saying in our home. We no longer allow the “I can’t do this” mentality, rather we simply say, “I haven’t figured this out yet.” While we have been faced with incredibly hard challenges, we are also aware of our strength and determination. We are no longer afraid to say, “I need help.” While we thought it was a superpower to do everything on our own, we realize the true strength is in asking for help, or accepting help, when needed. Our faith has been restored. The power of prayer was instrumental in our journey and continues to be the center of our life today.
Do you believe in miracles?
I do. Two miracles call me Mom.
Amanda Tellmann is an adoptive and bio mother to two beautiful daughters, her youngest being born at 29w6d. Amanda is a full time college student and recently joined the Graham’s Foundation team as the Care Package and Community Outreach Coordinator. In her free time, she enjoys journaling, crafting, DIY projects and home organization. Her greatest passion is spending quality time with her husband and daughters. She finds that playing dress up, organizing impromptu dance parties in the kitchen, or spending an hour playing during bath time is the mental break that all mothers need from time to time.