Meet Emily, Preemie Parent Mentor
My preemie(s) was born at: 35 / 34 weeks
Days spent in the NICU: 9 / 20
Parent of Multiples: No
Our NICU Journey included: moderate preterm birth, NG tube, difficulty breastfeeding, jaundice, having an older sibling at home, the adult preemie perspective
The memories of our premature birth journey that stand out most are how small my daughters were, though they were on the healthier end of the prematurity spectrum. I myself was born at 28 weeks, at under two pounds; they were 35 and 34 weeks and 4’9 and 3’10 respectively). I remember vividly how hard it was to leave my first baby at the hospital, and how it was no easier the second time around. I wanted to spend as much time as I could with my preemie, and I’m grateful that our first hospital had a rooming-in option to facilitate that.
The second time around, my husband shouldered the bulk of caring for our older daughter while also visiting the NICU as much as possible. He and our firstborn still have a remarkably special bond from the time they spent together. Both times, I also had in the forefront of my mind that I went through all this, too, when I was a baby. I reminded myself that I got through it, so they (as moderately preterm babies) would get through it, too.
Preterm birth has always been a part of my life since I was born prematurely, and I know from experience that we preemies grow up to live happy, full lives. I wanted to become a Graham’s Foundation Preemie Parent Mentor to share this helpful perspective. I grew up with stories of the NICU, so in some ways the NICU, with its machines and sounds, was familiar. I never expected my own babies would also both be preemies. I know that it’s a very difficult, stressful time for families, and hope can be hard to come by!
Emily’s tips for new NICU parents:
- Keep in mind that your love for your baby is the most important thing; even if you feel helpless when they are connected to machines, or you have to leave them there, there is no substitute for your love.
- It’s all right to ask questions about what’s happening to your baby. Even though the doctors and nurses are the experts, you’re the parent, and you have a right to know. Sometimes, this means figuring out which nurse is the most patient giver of answers, or finding the right time to ask, but persistence is all right. Even if the doctors or nurses get frustrated with your questions, because they have so many small lives to care for, they do have the best interests of your child at heart, and are doing what they can to get them healthy and strong enough to leave as soon as possible.
- There’s always hope! I entered the NICU as a mom who’d heard stories about incubators, monitors, tubes, and the two-steps-forward, one-step-back dance. While this didn’t exactly make the NICU easier, it did give me perspective that most babies who are in the NICU do go on to have happy, productive, normal lives despite a difficult or scary beginning.
Late-Term Preemie Support
Having a late-term preemie may seem like an easy journey when compared with the roller-coaster ride of having a micropreemie, but late-term preemies can still have feeding challenges, breathing issues, health concerns, and a stressful NICU stay. Because late-term preemies are nearly as big as newborns, many people assume they are equally resilient when that’s not usually the case.
More Than One Experience with Prematurity
For many parents of preemies early birth is something that simply goes hand-in-hand with having children. Though we don’t understand what causes preterm labor and birth in all cases, we do know that genetics can make some mothers more likely to have preemies than others. Having experienced premature birth one or more times previously means that parents of multiple preemies are already familiar with the ins and outs of the NICU and taking care of a medically fragile baby. However, knowing what can happen is very different than knowing what will happen and so may not be very reassuring. Every preemie’s journey is different.