Parents of Preemies Day? Created by … none other than…Preemie Parents? That’s a little…I don’t know…”pat your own back,” much?
Okay, I admit it. That was my initial reaction. When the first Parents of Preemies Day was going viral last year, I sat back and watched in skepticism “Woo hoo, my body failed me and now my kid’s sick. And that makes me special, how?!” Throw in a couple expletives and that’s pretty much what I was thinking.
I know, that’s a really negative way to start a post but on a positive note, I can say this; It’s amazing what a year can do to your perspective.
Last March, just 3 days before Parents of Preemies Day, this was my personal Facebook post.
When I posted that, we were on day 21 of a 29 day hospital stay for RSV. The only reason we went home on day 29 was because I said we were going home. Owen was still on 2-3 liters of oxygen. He was otherwise stable and our family could not take anymore. At that point, I was so tired. We were all tired. We were inches from breaking.
Proud to be a preemie parent was the last thing I was feeling. Tired. Beat down. Exhausted. Lonely. Like I failed. “Kicked in the gut” were Kyle’s words. “Ain’t No F’in Roller Coaster” (the truth behind the name) were my words.
I was proud as proud could be of Owen. The gravity of his situation was finally starting to sink in and I was starting to grasp how lucky we were to be where we were. I was also proud of Kellen. He was exhibiting trying behavior that month, but I also knew why and I could see he was trying so hard to understand. He was really trying to put on a brave face and act like it was normal to go to the hospital, not home, to have dinner as a family. I was proud of Kyle. He was putting Kellen to bed each night and getting him ready for school, going to work and then leaving work at 3:00 to work from the hospital while I went home to walk the dog and put in a load of laundry and picked up Kellen from school.
I felt pride for each of them, but not for me. Instead, I just felt tired. And really angry with my body. Angry that we were in the hospital…again…still. And as you can see from my Facebook post, I felt so much guilt for complaining because I knew how lucky we were to be in that hospital. You know…instead of the alternative.
Last March, the idea of celebrating being a Parent of Preemies didn’t fit with my frame of mind. But as I already said, it is amazing what a year can do to your perspective. I look back over these last twelve months with so much pride. It’s not just about how far Owen has come. It’s about how far we have ALL come. Our entire family has made it through some really heavy storms. And you know what?
We. Did NOT. Break. There are wounds still to heal and scars that are still restrictive, but we did not break.
One of the reason’s I struggled with “pride” in being a preemie parent is that I felt (and still feel) that I was just doing what any mom would do. I have simply done the best I could for my kids.
But here’s the thing. Do you know that statement that, it seems, most preemie parents hear and hate…this one:
I don’t know what I would do in your situation.
Well, I do. I do know what I would do in this situation. I promise you I haven’t done it perfectly, but you know what? I’ve done the best that I could and I didn’t break. There were broken moments, but I did not break.
Every person has moments in their lives when they have to prove they will not break. Maybe it’s fighting for our country or addiction or an accident. Everyone has to go through something that proves they have super hero strength.
For our family and for the families of most of ANRC’s readers, the repercussions of the premature birth of our children have been those moments where breaking seemed most possible.
We didn’t break.
I didn’t and neither did you. And if you’re still in the throes of it and wondering if maybe you will. Trust me, you won’t. One day, you’ll look back and be amazed by your super hero inner strength.
The fact that so many of us didn’t break and that we’ve supported each other throughout; that’s what, this year, makes me proud to be a Parent of Preemies.
And if you’re not a preemie parent, whatever challenge you’ve fought through, I hope you take a day to celebrate that you didn’t break.