Hand to Hold's Official Blog: Written by Parents for Parents

Am I A Mother?

This question echoed in my mind. In the days after my daughter’s premature birth, I often wondered if I could call myself a mother. It sounds a little silly now, but back then it was a very real question. I was unable to do motherly things like breast feed and snuggle my newborn or even change a diaper. Who was I and where did I belong? My emotions were raw and unpredictable as I tried to navigate my new world.  Stumbling through the hospital corridors with physical and emotional pain that was suffocating, I felt broken and I was sure that everyone saw me as the failure I was. I was so angry and incredibly scared which prevented me from seeing things clearly. Nothing made sense to me anymore.

preemie baby

A mother’s loving touch.

Mother’s Day in 2010 fell exactly one week after my daughter was born. While her frail and tiny body was struggling to survive, moms everywhere were enjoying this special day. I wasn’t sure whether I fit in this category and I certainly did not feel like I had anything to celebrate. Despite the “happy mother’s day” cheers I got from well-meaning family and friends, I just wanted everyone to stop talking about the day. Didn’t they realize that I didn’t qualify to celebrate? I wasn’t able to do the most important job a mother does – gestate a baby long enough for them to be ready for this world. And worse, now that she was here, there was even less I could do to comfort her.  Every dream I held of being a mother had been stripped away from me and I was reluctant to celebrate what I feared would never be.

Fortunately, our NICU hosted a Mother’s Day brunch. I walked into the room with my head hanging low. I was more interested in getting food from some place other than the hospital cafeteria. Looking up, I was surprised to see other moms chatting, some even laughing, sharing their stories of how they ended up here. I was impressed by these women and their ability to find happiness despite the circumstances of being in the NICU. I connected with these moms and saw in them what I had thus far been unable to see in myself. They were wonderful mothers who had accepted their reality, and even better, they were embracing this special day. I walked out of that room with a new attitude and a changed perspective.

What I have learned through my journey is that a mother is not defined by tangible experiences like cuddling, breast-feeding, rocking and snuggling. It is defined by love. A love that is so fierce and runs so deep it is unlike anything I have ever known. Only another mother can understand this love. This love was planted when I first saw two pink lines on a pregnancy test and it hasn’t stopped growing. It was a mother’s love that triumphed over fear and pushed me to participate in my daughter’s care. It was love that prodded me to pump breast milk around the clock until more blood than milk was produced. It was love that brought me through the doors of the NICU day after day, learning to cheer for every small step forward. Love helped me find a voice when I needed to advocate for my daughter. And I have grown to understand that this love will never go away and can never be diminished. It is forever and always and that is what makes me a mother.

Rachel Pasquale About Rachel Pasquale

Rachel Pasquale (ME) is the mother to Isabella, her only child, born at 23 weeks, weighing 1 pound 6 ounces. After 107 days in the NICU she and her husband welcomed home a healthy baby. Despite being well supported during her entire journey, Rachel felt a profound sense of isolation, often feeling that those around her did not truly understand what she was going through. Her desire to help herself and others feel less lonely navigating the NICU led her to Preemie Babies 101. In addition to contributing to this website, Rachel is a member of the NICU Family Advisory Council at the hospital her daughter once called home. You can contact her through Facebook or via email.


  1. Happy Mother’s Day, Rachel.

  2. What an incredible story that will surely help so many others. Thank you for opening your heart and sharing such intimacies. Truly beautiful.

  3. Thank you for so definitively expressing what many preemie moms feel and for sharing your story. Makes every other Mother’s Day that more special. <3

  4. Michelle HenselMichelle says:

    Such a beautiful post. I spent Mother’s Day 2010 in the NICU too. It’s really hard to spend that day there. Even though I felt like a mother, I wasn’t able to “mother” my premature twins in the traditional sense- feeding, holding, cuddling, bathing, changing, etc. I longed to be able to mother them in this way. I wish all the moms currently in the NICU a Happy Mother’s Day!

  5. Such a beautiful post! This made me so emotional because it is exactly how I felt this past Mother’s Day when my son who was born at 24 weeks was 2 weeks old. Thanks for sharing! It helps to know I’m not alone!

  6. Thank you for posting this- your thoughts echoed how I felt after giving birth to a 26 weeker. My husband doesn’t really understand the sense of failure that comes with being unable to have a normal pregnancy, so it was nice for me to read this! I also struggle with the fact that my “failure” is so public- everyone I know knows what happened. In my better moments I know that it’s not really my fault or a failure, but it’s hard to shake that feeling!

  7. Bethany Myers says:

    This is first time I’m reading this article, but your story is my story. My daughter was born two years ago this Thursday, and I too felt the confusion that came with having a baby born VERY early…I struggled so much with the feeling that I wasn’t a mom, or somehow caught between the mom and non-mom worlds! It was so painful. Even two years on this side of that experience, your words hit me a fresh as ever. Thank you for sharing. Finding others to relate to in our preemie world never gets old…Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  8. Thank you for this post. These were exactly the emotions I had swirling in my head for weeks after my daughter’s birth. I joked about visiting “my baby in a box”, but in a sardonic phrase was a miriad of swirling fears, guilt, feelings of paralyzing inadequacy. You have captured and explained beautifully all I felt. Thank you for your words.

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