November is Prematurity Awareness Month and today, November 17th is World Prematurity Day. The purpose is to raise awareness of preterm birth and the concerns of preterm babies and their families worldwide. Premature birth and its complications are the largest contributors to infant death in the U.S. and globally. In fact, in the United States, the number of premature births has increased each of the last 3 years.
My story about prematurity
Prematurity is very personal to me and I am sharing my story in hopes that you will find comfort in knowing that someone understands what you are going through and all of the emotions involved. My twin girls were born in 2014 at 33 weeks and 4 days and they spent several weeks in the NICU. These pictures show just how small and fragile they were.
It was an incredibly stressful time for our family. In the NICU, the girls were on a very regimented schedule. We could feed them and hold them for 30 minutes every 3 hours. They rest of the time, they were in their warmers so they could rest, continue to develop and not become overstimulated.
The emotional struggle
As a new mom and a first-time mom, all I wanted to do was to love and hold my daughters. The emotional toll the routine and tubes and alarms took on me was great. I was anxious, stressed, and had difficulty sleeping. On top of trying to navigate motherhood, I was also healing from major surgery. Self-care was a foreign term and as in love as I was, I was struggling emotionally.
World Prematurity Day
The theme for this year’s World Prematurity Day “Born too soon: Finding the right care, at the right time, in the right place” has several meanings to me.
The first of course is finding the right care while pregnant and immediately after birth, so our children can get stronger and healthier. That’s the most obvious of them all.
The second is maternal and infant care after birth. I struggled with undiagnosed postpartum anxiety for over a year before finding the doctor who was able to identify and give a name to the feelings I had been experiencing since becoming a mom. Once I received treated for postpartum anxiety, I was better able to deal with my emotions and I became a better, more present mom.
A happy ending…
For my girls, we found a pediatrician who understood my situation. He was able to care for my girls and also help me navigate some of the challenges that come with being the mom of premature babies. We are extremely fortunate – our girls overcame mild challenges and are healthy, vivacious, loving 4-year-olds.
The severity or the number of challenges a family with a premature child faces doesn’t matter. It’s all uncharted territory. Every mom and dad wants what’s best for their children and they deserve the right care for their families throughout their journey.
Finally, the theme of this year’s World Prematurity Day extends to well after our children are home from the hospital. It includes all families, regardless of whether their children were born prematurely or full-term. Navigating parenthood is challenging. Doing it alone is almost impossible.
Tips for navigating being a new parent, whether you have premature or full-term babies
Tip #1: Lean on your tribe or find a new tribe
Having a supportive network of family, friends, teachers, etc. is the key to making it through the newborn phase and motherhood in general. As our children grow there will be sleep challenges, behavioral challenges, broken hearts, and broken bones. Having family, friends and other Moms is essential. They support you, find humor in diaper blow outs and other random fun baby stuff. Your tribe will make the experiences of parenting more enjoyable! If you don’t have a tribe, join a Moms group and seek out like minded Moms who also need support. Believe us – they want to meet you as much as you want to meet them!
Tip #2: Seek postpartum help if needed
If you aren’t feeling like yourself or suspect you may have postpartum anxiety or depression (online test here), seek qualified help. As a new Mom, I needed help figuring out all of my emotions, while healing from childbirth. I asked for help with getting diagnosed with postpartum anxiety and the I accepted help so I could feel better. Postpartum mood disturbances affect 1 in 5 women and it is so normal. Think of all the changes our bodies go through You can and will feel like your (new Mommy) self again!
Tip #3: Find a supportive pediatrician that you click with
Whether you are experiencing complex medical problems or need routine care for your babies, having the right pediatrician can be a game changer. You want to feel heard. You want to feel like your questions and concerns are important to them, even if they’ve heard them a million times.
Tip #4: Bring in professionals
Enhance your network with experienced, knowledgeable and supportive care providers who can help you One of the reasons I am a sleep consultant is because when my girls were 12 months old, they went through a sleep regression. We hired Christine to help us navigate an exhausting and stressful time in our lives. Finding Christine and getting her help was a perfect example of getting the right care at the right time for us. The support we got was something we didn’t even know we needed at the time. It became something I wanted to give back to other moms who might be struggling.
Tip #5: Give yourself grace
Being a new parent can be incredibly rewarding and completely overwhelming. Remember, be kind to yourself. You are learning and no one expects you to be a perfect parent or to have all the answers.
Thank you for reading my story. And thank you for allowing Christine and me into your tribe. We are honored that you trust us to support you through your parenting journey. If you’ve come to the point where you are ready to accept help, please schedule a free 15-minute intro call so I can learn more and we can talk about working together.