Meet Kristine, Preemie Parent Mentor
My preemie(s) was born at: 25 weeks and 5 days
Days spent in the NICU: 3 ½ months
Current age of preemie(s): 3
Parent of Multiples: No
Our NICU Journey included: IUGR, severe preeclampsia, o2 at home, chronic lung disease, ROP, blood transfusions, reflux and feeding struggles, postpartum depression, lack of family support, and early intervention.
My pregnancy did not go as planned. My blood pressure became so high that my placenta was no longer able to give my baby the nutrients he needed, and he rapidly began to lose weight. An emergency c-section saved my life and my son’s life. My son stayed on oxygen throughout his NICU stay and for several months after. He wore a monitor attached to his foot 24 hours a day. It was very stressful and scary. When he was about a year old, his pulmonologist decided he no longer needed the oxygen. I was informed, however, that there was scarring on his lungs and this could become a problem later. My son was diagnosed with ROP because the blood vessels in his eyes were underdeveloped. We saw an ophthalmologist for months after he came home until he was cleared. . Early intervention helped our family so much! My son was in physical and occupational therapy, as well as speech therapy (for his feeding struggles). Without these therapies my son would have stayed behind where he should have been.
In addition to all of the struggles my baby boy faced, I also experienced postpartum depression for several months after my son was born due to the birth trauma and lack of family support
What I remember most about my NICU journey is when my son’s primary nurse brought us a beautiful basket with his name on it, filled with baby blankets, and a handmade sign with the date, his name, weight, and height for his one month milestone. She made a sign similar to that one for every month he was in the NICU. I still have them three years later, and I will cherish them forever!
Three things every NICU parent/grandparent should know is
1. Having a support system is very important. You will need someone to be there for you to listen to your concerns and worries and also to celebrate the milestones and good news with you.
2. Getting to know the nurses is essential to your NICU stay, since you can’t be with your child 24 hours a day you will be able to better trust them while you are away if you talk with them more. We had a primary nurse, and I slept much better at night knowing she was with my son.
3. Asking questions about what is happening with your baby and why is so important. Also learning as much as you can about the acronyms and phrases the doctors and nurses will refer to throughout your NICU stay will be beneficial. These tips may help lower some of your confusion and allow you to feel more involved.
I want to be a mentor to other preemie parents because I did not have a good support system and I seriously struggled emotionally throughout my son’s NICU journey without it. I would have greatly benefited from speaking with a mentor during our NICU stay because it would have helped me feel less alone.
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.