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

Embracing the “Elephant in the Room”


micro-preemies going to school

My former micro-preemies heading off to pre-school.

My former micro-preemies are now 2 1/2 years old.  They started pre-school this year, and in many ways, they are doing exactly what other 2 year olds are doing.  Aside from being smaller than other 2 year olds, strangers wouldn’t know they were one pound babies or that they were born 4 months early.  I can’t even put into words how blessed I feel.

And yet – I still often feel like the elephant in the room.  Maybe I always will.  I found this definition, “‘Elephant in the room’ is an idiom for an obvious truth that is either being ignored or going unaddressed.”

I find myself avoiding pregnant women.  Certainly when talking to a pregnant woman, you must address the fact they are pregnant.  Their big bellies lurk like a huge elephant standing between you and them.  Women who don’t know my story will undoubtedly complain about some part of being pregnant.  Isn’t that what pregnant women are supposed to do?  They might go on to say something like, “I’m counting down the days” or worse, “I wish this baby would be born already.”  I’m left standing there facing my own “elephant in the room” taking up all the space between my thoughts and what will actually make it to my lips.  The obvious truth that I would love to say is, “You should count your blessings that your baby is safe inside your womb, and don’t wish prematurity on your baby.  It’s no fun!”  Fortunately, that “elephant” is crowding the space between what I want to say and what I say instead which is something like, “I hope all goes well.”  The obvious truth is left ignored.  I am the elephant in the room.

The situation isn’t much better when I’m around pregnant women who do know our story.  They don’t want to talk to me about their pregnancies because it is simply uncomfortable.  They are kind and don’t want to say anything insensitive which I appreciate.  What is there left to talk about?  Labor – no; they don’t want to hear my labor story.  What pregnant woman would want to hear that things can and do go terribly wrong?  Maternity photos or baby registries – no; never had time for either of those.  Baby names – no; we named our children in a rush scared they may only be known as Baby A and Baby B.  Nursery decorations – no; when your babies are born 4 months early, you don’t have time to peruse nursery decor.  I can no longer make baby small talk.  Again, I am the elephant in the room.

I have come to the conclusion that it is far better to succumb to being the elephant in the room than to being a pessimist.  Recently, I went to a consignment sale for mothers of multiples in our area.  As I was waiting in line, I began talking to the lady behind me.  She was pregnant with twins.  She told me that her pregnancy was “picture perfect” and she was sure she would carry her twins to 37-38 weeks.  I told her that was great.  I hope she does deliver healthy twins just as I wish no one had to experience prematurity.  What I avoided telling her was that my twin pregnancy was “picture perfect” too right up until my twins decided to make their entrance into the world 4 months early for no known reason.  I recently listened to a mom talking about how horrible it was to be on bed rest for 5 weeks.  I avoided telling her that I would have given anything for 5 more weeks of my babies developing in the womb.  That would have made them almost 29 weekers rather than almost 24 weekers- still a far cry from term but perhaps a few less weeks spent on ventilators.  Once again, I am the elephant in the room.

I am not the perspective police.  People gain their own perspective in their own time.  It is not my job to go stampeding my herd of elephants spreading grayness everywhere.  One day I hope to overcome the discomfort I feel in these situations.  I’m not there yet.  In time, I hope to be able to embrace the elephant in the room.  Perhaps, I will find the right words to tactfully and gracefully say what I am thinking, or perhaps, I will choose silence – not because I don’t know how to respond but simply because I will be too busy counting my blessings!

Michelle Hensel About Michelle Hensel

Michelle Hensel (TX) is the mother to three children. Her oldest daughter was born full-term and she unexpectedly delivered her twins at just 23 weeks 5 days, with each weighing 1 lb. 2 oz. and 1 lb. 8 oz. They spent 133 days in the NICU. Although they still face challenges due to their prematurity, they are now active, healthy toddlers. Michelle chronicles her family's journey with former micro-preemie twins and their big sister on her personal blog.


  1. My son was born at 32 weeks, not nearly as early as yours. I am so so sorry you had to go through tht, but so happy they are doing well! I have found that most times it is better to bite my tongue because they really don’t want to hear it because it will “never happen to them!” I had 4 normal, healthy pregnancies and on my 5th I developed preeclampsia and had a preemie. This was a great post!

    • I figured that other preemie moms could relate to being in those awkward situations where you feel you should say something but at the same time know it’s probably best to just walk away. I would love to hear what other preemie moms do in these situations.

  2. Thank you so much for posting this! I often feel the same talking to people of any gestation. My daughter was born at 31 weeks; after my water broke at 24 weeks. When I speak to other preemie moms of younger gestation, I feel guilty when they ask my story since my daughter was able to hold on with barely any fluid until 31wks, 3lbs 13oz. But, like you, I hate talking to ‘normal’ moms because of their gushings or complaints that I never had the chance to experience. I feel a constant struggle when looking at my beautiful, healthy 2 year old and it’s nice to know that others share the same internal struggle. Thank you for being brave and sharing your story.

    • I think “internal struggle” sums up the feeling perfectly. On one hand, you are so grateful your children survived, and on the other hand, you wish they never had to struggle. Glad to hear your daughter is healthy.

    • I feel the same way about pregnant women, however, I was told something while my daughter was in the NICU that I wanted to share with you.
      She was one of only 2 “term” babies, I had her at 37 weeks, which they say is full term however, sometimes the baby is not ready to come out then. While I was the for about the first week, I didn’t talk to any of the mothers, I felt guilty having a term baby. Once night, after we were told we would only have a “few day” stay, we got bad news. I remember I went into the bathroom, locked myself in the stall and cried. I was scared and confused and I just felt like I had no one to really turn to. One of the other mothers came into the bathroom and I tired to “dry it up” and leave, but as I walked out and headed to the sinks she just hugged me and said “its ok to cry, just let it out.” I did, like a baby. After I calmed down, she told me they had a support group of the mothers in the NICU and I should come. I told her “I doubt you wanna hear me complain with everything you guys are going though.” She laughed and told me “We are all on this ride together, you don’t have to deal with this alone.” Since, I have kept intouch with all of the mothers. Its so much easier to talk to them too, because they know how I feel. Most people who have never dealt with the NICU don’t understand. I am so thankful that my daughter is healthy and happy, but, there is still that fear there. I get tired of hearing “Well, atleast she is ok now.” Or “isn’t the NICU for preterm babies?” Other NICU parents know that we are all thankful that our children are ok, but, the fear is still there. I still wake up every two hours, scared, having to check if she is still breathing. The scars maybe healed, but, they still show up. I have never had any NICU parent, preterm or term, treat me different. I think the bond is strong, and we all know what to say and not to say. I never want to deal with the NICU again but, I am very thankful of all the new people I have met, and the knowledge I gained.

  3. Yes yes yes yes yes! to all of this! Although I am sure that having a baby is a defining moment in most women and men’s lives, having a preemie intensifies that experience in some ways. I’m not suggesting we love our children more or appreciate them more than parents of full term babies, but I do think we gain a different perspective on the fragility of life, the unpredictable nature of life, and the unexpected challenges of life. My 28 weeker is now 20 months old and doing great, but there is not one day in her life that I haven’t thought multiple times about her preemie-ness. I am still very much affected by the trauma of her entry into the world, and it affects my world view and view of myself. I try not to do too much “well, my daughter was a preemie…” but frankly, her arrival under such a stressful situation defines who I am and who our family is, so it is hard not to bring in that perspective.

    I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this- thanks for sharing!

    • Andrea- you are right. As parents of preemies, we know first hand how precious life is. I had a full term daughter first. She is now 5. My preemies are 2 1/2. Each one of my children is a precious gift. Having preemies teaches you to appreciate everything more!

  4. Thank you for this! So many of us preemie parents can relate. This applies not only to being a parent of a preemie, but to life experiences in general.
    “People gain their own perspective in their own time.” -so very true, fellow mama.
    I’m often the elephant with a bleeding tongue. It’s nice to know others are, as well.

  5. I love that you took the time to write this. Our daughter was born at 29 weeks, and although we faced many challenges with our pregnancy and delivery, things could have turned out much worse for us, and I count my blessings daily that I was able to carry her that long… Many times I have felt the exact same way… elephant in the room… biting my tongue especially when pregnant women I knew… some who were pregnant at the same time as me, and even knew our story were insensitively complaining to me about their relatively normal pregnancy woes… bloated feet, stretch marks etc… not to minimize those discomforts, but they’re normal, and a blessed burden to bear knowing your baby is safe and sound.

  6. Thanks for posting this…my son was born at 32 weeks and was IUGR…he was only 2lbs at birth. Even though he is healthy and happy, he is small for his age…so when people ask how old he is and I tell them, I can always see the wheels turning. I find myself explaining our story even though they are not asking…guess I am definitely not alone on this one!!

  7. I would like to thank you for writing this blog, I was afraid I was the only one that felt like this. I have two preemie boys. My oldest was born December 2008 at 32 weeks weighing 2 pounds 13 ounces and my youngest was born January 2012 at 34 weeks weighing 3 pounds 15 ounces. Not as early or as small as your two but still early enough to where they could have had complications and with my oldest struggled to live for the first couple weeks. Ive had longer to process everything then you seeing that my oldest is almost 4 but i still struggle with encounters with pregnant moms. I want so bad to tell them to stop complaining and enjoy every second they are pregnant because things can happen in a blink of an eye. It hurts me when i hear or read about moms that are wanting to have their babies now cause they are uncomfortable or just tired of it. I hate when moms want to be induced early and they dont realize that they could end up with a preemie cause of that. I hope that one day I will be able to figure out how to handle pregnant moms and their offhand comments.

  8. Julie Dannhauser says:

    I used to write blogs for this website before it changed hands. You can find many of my stories if you do a search on Drake. Anyhow, I can relate to your blog very much. My son was not as early as your two darlings, but he was the result of 7 tries at invitro, then my pregnancy was a roller coaster of events because they thought he had things wrong mentally, generally unpleasant/hard pregnancy that ended with 3 weeks in the ICU. My delivery was 28 hours labor and ended in emergency c-section. My son was 32 weeks but was IUGR weighing 2lbs 7oz. He later had grade 4 brain bleeds and was said he may go blind, have speech problems or CP. Even some of my dearest friends and family can’t comprehend what I went through. I was lucky and very blessed to have my son turn out just perfect in the end. He is on the small side but otherwise nobody would ever guess his rough start. I too sometimes have troubles with natural pregnancies, easy pregnancies, easy births, etc. I have found that using what I learned to help and guide others is key to getting beyond all that. We are human and it’s not easy to not try and make eveyone out there realize how “lucky” they are, but I found that realizing that I am truly the lucky one because I know what miracles are and I know a love for life and children that I may not have known if things went smooth.

  9. Thank you for writing this post. I have had two preemies. My first was 27 weeks and my second was 29 weeks. I was very traumatized about my first birth and NICU experience and had to learn to talk about it. It was so hard to put things into words, that and I felt like if I talked about things that it would make things all the more real. My second pregnancy was not nearly as traumatic and was filled with all the usual precautions that are done to a woman who has delivered early. Needless to say things did not turn out the way any of us were hoping for. I was able to talk about my second experience a lot more freely. I do often feel like I make people uncomfortable when they hear about my story. I struggle with telling my story especially around pregnant women. But then I kind of feel guilty because this my children’s story and why shouldn’t they be celebrated just as much as other children. I struggle to find that balance, but I often think that there isn’t really a balance between a hunky dory pregnancy and one that ends up in the NICU with you thinking about if you will be writing an obituary or a birth announcement. I am still dealing with the knee jerk reaction of telling people that my daughter was a preemie since she is 8 months old and everyone comments on her size, some people do not find it funny when I tell them I only feed her on Tuesdays.
    I guess it is just something that you learn to deal with on a person to person basis, it will take time to sort of heal.

    • I might have to try the “I only feed her on Tuesdays” when people comment on how tiny my 2 1/2 year old is. She weighs 20 lbs. Sometimes I go into the long story of telling about her prematurity, and sometimes I just say, “Yes, she is petite.”

  10. This is an interesting point since I’m currently pregnant with my second child. My first was a 32 weeker. He was given a 50/50 chance to survive the night he was born. Thankfully he was a fighter and is now 2. People who know about my son’s early arrival tell me things like well this time will be different because all pregnancies are different. I hope to goodness they are right. People that don’t know say wow I bet your hoping this one comes early- ummm nope right on time would be more than perfect. It’s hard to talk to first time moms because they assume prematurity will happen to someone else but not to them- can’t blame them I felt the same way when I was pregnant with my 1st. It’s hard to talk to moms that had full term babies because they say things like well he’s good now so there’s nothing to stress about- yes he is thank heavens but until I get to full term there’s plenty to stress about so even pregnant I’m still the elephant in the room. I’m still right there with you!

  11. I can also relate. I had a 30 weeker and a 31half weeker – both boys and both times they couldnt trll me why I went into labor. I think I get so upset because I would do anything to have remained pregnant until term. After you watch your baby fight to live it just gives you a different perspective. I always tell women when they’re complaining about being pregnant to be thankful for every day. I dont care what they think!

  12. My twins were 28 seekers that just got out if the NICU after 5 1/2 months. Having gone through this experience really has changed my outlook on life and my perspective on everything, for the better. I can’t think of any instance where I have been bothered by a pregnant mother. I simply get bothered by the people who think they know what I’m going through and try to compare me to their own birth story. It’s simply not the same, though they mean well. It’s not easy to have a traumatic pregnancy/birth. Only those who have lived it understand. The many doctors appointments, medical supplies, therapies, etc. that is why it’s a blessing to have sites like these. We ALL get eachother and understand.

    • Laura- Glad to hear your twins are home. Congrats on their homecoming! I hear ya! I had a mom tell me, “Oh, don’t worry things will get easier.” This was when I was still tube feeding both of my twins every 3 hours day and night. I wanted to ask her, “How do you know? Did you have micro-preemie twins?” Things are much easier now, but it took 2 years, not a few months like it does for full term kids. I know because I’ve had a full-term baby too. It is so nice to have resources like this website where veteran NICU parents can share with new NICU parents.

  13. Thank you si much for sharing this. I developed HELLP and had csection only 4 weeks early. I have been so depressed about not having the perfect delivery and not carring to term. As I read your story I sat and cried. I cried, not because of what happened to me, but because of “what could have” happened. You have made me realize that its not all about me. I have a healthy baby and she was born healthy. I need to be greatful and count my blessings. How selfish I have been!! Thank you for this! You have now inspired me. God bless you and god bless your little miracles.

    • Nina – I’m glad this post resonated with you. I figured that many preemie moms can relate to these same feelings. I’m sure you haven’t been selfish at all; you are just processing what you have been through. I think there is no time frame for that. We all deal with life’s obstacles on our own timeline.

  14. It really is astounding how personal experience changes your outlook irretrievably. My daughter was born a little early, but in a coma-like state. No idea why. All of her physical tests are fine, but she just didn’t develop. At nine months, she still didn’t even have visual fix or follow. They told us to ‘take her home and love her, there’s nothing we can do.’

    Pfft. I was a speech pathologist, so I knew That was ridiculous. Even if all she learned to do was look at things, that would still be an advancement that would improve her life. So I found a program that jibed with my graduate training in using reflexes to further function, and after five years of that, she finally started walking, and talking a few years after that. Now she’s 17 and rides horses and cracks jokes and cooks with me. She has friends and a heart that is so obviously joyful that it takes me three times as long to grocery shop when she’s along because the whole town loves her and has to stop and chat with us.

    This child has worked desperately, blessedly hard for every tiny increment of achievement she has ever accomplished. She is a very functional person, but will never live on her own. My elephant in the room is having parents of typical kids complain about how their kid gets on their nerves, or they can’t wait until they’re out of the house, or they have to choose between this college and that college or any one of a myriad complaints that I wish my daughter had ever had a shot at. I just nod and smile. I’ve decided after 17 years of this journey that I can’t make them feel inordinately blessed and complain less by sharing my stories of having to teach her to shift her weight to one hand at the coffee table before she could use the other to pick up a cheerio. At seven years old. Or tell stories about how every other person in the family’s needs suddenly became secondary or tertiary to this kid just surviving infancy. The elephant in the room is surprisingly resistant to sharing his shape-shifting perspective with anyone who hasn’t experienced him. But…with time and experience, he tells you that other peoples’ elephants have altered them as well, and perhaps made them more compassionate too in the process for all of the unforeseeable curve balls that pepper us humans.

    • Sharon – Thank you for sharing the story of your amazing daughter. What a miracle she is! It sounds like she has blessed your life in innumerable ways. Thank you for enlightening all of us with your story.

  15. Thank you all for leaving comments and sharing your own stories and internal struggles. I think we are all comforted in knowing that our feelings are fairly universal among preemie moms. I’ve enjoyed reading about all of your little miracle babies and wish you all the best whether you are just bringing home your babies from the NICU or are years past the NICU.

  16. Thanks for this. As someone who has had 2 babies, one a full-term loss and the other a 26-weeker, I find myself holding back sometimes because who wants to hear precaution-type stuff from me? Birth stories are fun; I’ve never had a contraction, never gone to the hospital with anything but fear, never got to have a normal story. My sister is currently pregnant and after I congratulated her and squeeeeed over the prospect of a baby, I emailed her my entire history so she could be tested for a few things and asked if her hospital had a proper NICU. Thankfully my sister loves me and gets it, anyone else would run for the hills.

    Education like this post is important. I haven’t run into the mindless things many other preemie parents have because I was open from day 1. Team Alex got a daily pic and update in which I imparted info as I learned it, from day 1 in the NICU. I encourage everyone to educate, not defensively, but proactively, like it’s fascinating. Because it really, truly is, and it’s contagious, that fascination.

  17. This is exactly how I feel and you’ve summed it up perfectly!
    My son was born at 24 weeks and I would’ve given anything! ANYTHING! to have a safe, happy, uneventful pregnancy like the majority of the other moms.
    Preemie moms grieve a lot; we grieve for our children who endure countless weeks and months fighting to survive. We grieve for the time stolen from us caused by our pregnancy’s abrupt ending, knowing our bodies (for whatever reason) were no longer a safe haven for our little ones to thrive.
    I spent many a night on my knees praying…and questioning God, why? Why didn’t He stop this? Why couldn’t He just make Judah all better so he could come home? Why, why, why…
    And after 3 years, I finally have my answer: I would’ve never met such amazing fellow preemie moms, never would I be able to offer advice to a current NICU family, never could I look at my son and doubt the true miracle of life.

  18. My twins were also born at 23 weeks 4 days I had a very hard time at first dealing with some of the same issues as you, one of my most vivid memories are of someone close to me saying while we were going to eat before going to see our twins (they were an hr away) she said “please take my kid I don’t feel like feeding her ” knowing I would give anything to go feed mine! Just to be able to hold them I wasn’t allowed until my daughter was 1 month & the other 2 months so..I think it’s something we all go though mine are 2 1/2 and my little sister is 25 weeks pregnant with twins and it is going so smooth I can’t say I’m not jealous and she knows that but I am also so grateful I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. My son has mild cp from everything he went through and that is it he is getting closer to walking 😀 my daughter is a firecracker you would never know she was 1 lb 9 oz I say I know I am blessed and I love to share my story and if I knew how I would share it with the world 😀

  19. I just had my twin girls, one at 23 weeks 5 days and the other at 24 weeks and 5 days. My first baby girl born is having a lot of problems right now it is really really hard! What got you guys through these horrible ups downs for the next 4 months may i ask? My second baby girl born is doing well but it seems like she is following in her sisters footsteps with everything so im afraid she will be having the same problems soon. I just keep praying they will both be ok i know thats all i can do but it is very very hard! I just want to know they will be ok. Thank you!

    • Libby – I am so sorry you are having to go through this. It is hard. It is really, really hard. There is no magic answer as to how we got through our twins’ NICU stay. Some days were good and some were really bad. I think just taking it one day at a time is all you can really do. Try not to worry about what the future may or may not hold. I know I worried about this so much. It doesn’t help make anything easier because it is something you can’t control. I remember telling my husband that I wish we could just fast forward time. I would deal with whatever their outcomes were then; I just couldn’t take one more day of hearing bad news. I will always remember him telling me, “If we fast forwarded time, we wouldn’t get to see what little fighters we have.” Be your girls cheerleader and advocate. Read to them, sing to them, tell them how proud you are of them, and try not to worry about things you can’t control. For me, I prayed a lot too. Also, accept help from friends and family. If you want to contact me at any time with questions, etc., feel free at bailey_mg@yahoo.com.

    • I know I’m writing this a few days later, and I hope your twins are now doing better. I know even hours make a difference at this point.

      Michelle is COMPLETELY right. You don’t know how you make it through…none of us can write a manual or a guidebook. It is a different journey for each of us. I know I look back and the nurses offered an AMAZING wealth of support…They kept reminding me to take care of myself, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to take care of them. Without those daily/hourly reminders I probably wouldn’t have remembered to eat or shower somedays.

      And just know that there will always be a group of people who know exactly how you are feeling…we may not physically be able to help you and we can’t “fix” things for you. But we can hope, pray, and offer our ears to listen if you need it. I hope that all is well…

  20. First time mom to a 24-weeker here. She is now 19 months actual/ 15 months corrected. Even now I struggle as to which age to tell people she is or why it is that she has two ages. Early on, I usually responded by giving out her corrected age to avoid confusion and explanations. Only recently have I tried giving out her actual age. But, I am having a hard time not spilling our preemie story when I receive a surprised look. Shouldn’t she be doing “this” or saying “that” if she is really 19 months? From friends and family I get the feeling that they think I should stop mentioning the fact that she was born 4 months early since she is doing so well. Things I worry about they say is normal for any child. Perhaps. Or perhaps she is delayed and needs some assistance to function “normally”. Not speaking any words yet is one of my concerns especially when my pediatrician has strongly recommended speech therapy. Often I am viewed as being overprotective when it comes to germs and a mean mommy when I “force” my daughter to eat. No one seems to understand the meaning of the words “RSV” and “mild oral aversion.” It seems the only people for the most part that care to hear preemie birth stories, NICU memories and current preemie-related problems are those that have experienced it too. Thanks for sharing your heart and putting the thoughts and frustrations many of us have into words.

    • Leslie- The age thing is always tricky. My daughter is the size of a one year old even though she is 2 1/2. I think the right answer is whatever you feel like saying that day. You have the right to use her adjusted age or actual age at any time. I want to reassure you that all preemie parents are “overprotective.” We have to be! I also say to trust your instinct on what your child might need (i.e. speech therapy, etc.). You are the best advocate for your child. Don’t let others opinions get in the way of doing what you know is best for your child. Thanks for sharing your story.

  21. Our first baby was born @ 29 weeks (after trying to come @ 25 weeks) for no known reason. I was put on bed rest indefinitely after my first stay in the hospital when preterm labor first began; but despite bed rest, my water broke four weeks later (to which I was so thankful each and everyday that he “baked a little longer”). When I was pregnant this last year with our second, I was definitely on high alert to say the least once we started approaching the 25 week mark. With each passing day & week, I continued to count my blessings with this child. Once I started to get to the phase of pregnancy when people assume you are “big & uncomfortable” I would often have people comment, asking if I was “Ready to have that baby yet?” And my response was always the same…”She can bake as long as she wants to, if she wants to come a week or two late even, I would take that over having her come too early like her brother; it’s all about perspective! I am just praying for a healthy baby!”

    “People gain their own perspective in their own time.” So true; I am generally very comfortable talking about our first birth experience with our preemie…it is our story. I find that the people I’ve talked to are very receptive to hearing, and in fact ask questions. In turn, I am in a place where I can and also like to ask & listen to their stories (whether full-term or premature)…and I understand that not everyone who is a mother of a preemie (whether healthy now, continuing to face complications, or is no longer here on earth with us) is ready or able to do that.

  22. My partner and I had our identical twin boys delivered at 28+1 earlier this year. I have found your post so reassuring, I always feel that I must be the only person that feels this way. I don’t think that anyone that has not gone through NICU with a premmi can appreciate the emotions that go with it. I felt very envious of women that I would see arriving at the hospital to have the perfect birth and then go home as a family a day or so later. For us a 28 week delivery was a milestone due to complications but I felt so robbed of feeling like a proper mummy that had managed to carry her babies to term. Our boys are now 19 weeks old (7 weeks adjusted) and doing well, we had a 100 day stay in NICU but are now home!
    Your story of your twins is amazing, you must be so proud of your miracle babies!
    Thank you again for your post xx

  23. Thank you for sharing this! It is VERY hard not to respond the way you want to when you hear pregnant women complain. The elephant in the room is certainly hard when you have twins as well. Since twins are relatively uncommon people always seem to ask more questions, at least in my experience. My first pregnancy was a single, went full term, but I was in labor for 33 hours so she ended up in the NICU for a few days as well. I didn’t get nearly as many questions about her as I do about my twins from my second pregnancy. My twins were born at 32 weeks on 10-10-10. I get SO many comments about the birthday…”did you plan it that way?” I just respond “no it wasn’t planned” and shut them down with a polite smile. I really want to answer “oh yeah sure! I planned on having my liver and kidneys completely shut down on me and nearly losing my life so they had to be delivered by emergency c-section when they weren’t ready.” But most people can’t handle that so I try to hold my tongue. I wasn’t always too successful though. My husband lost his job just 5 days after the twins were delivered, two days after I came home from the hospital. For me it was too much and I went into severe post-partum depression. So much so the doctor was actually afraid to give me anti-depressants because he thought they may make me feel well enough to hurt myself. I couldn’t help feeling it was MY fault, MY BODY shut down…they weren’t ready to come out, but my body couldn’t handle it any more. I felt I was weak, unfit to care for them. I’m sure you moms of preemies know EXACTLY how I felt. Well, we ended up having a baby shower for them AFTER they came home from the hospital. They were about 5 weeks at the time. One of my in-laws asked me what time they were born, and I answered with 9:39 and 9:42. Her response was, “Oh you should have waited until 10, that would have been perfect.” That was it…I wasn’t going to be polite any longer. I responded “No I shouldn’t have because I would have been dead and those two girls would probably still be in the hospital. My platelets were so low that I could have spontaneously started bleeding internally and they wouldn’t have been able to stop it. So no it wouldn’t have been cute or perfect or whatever because I wouldn’t be here and they might not either!” I seriously don’t recommend saying anything like that! Most were SO offended I told the truth, but some realized what I was going through and backed me up on my tirade. So let people who want to go on thinking that everything is always so hunky-dory and deliveries are picture perfect. The rest of us know there is a different side to it…and we’re here to tell our side if any one truly wants to know. It is SERIOUSLY painful for us to relive it but if it helps another woman get through it…it’s worth it. In other words, let the elephant in the room stay there underneath the sheet unless another woman asks to take a peek.

  24. Great post! It is tough, especially at the beginning, when the experience of spending time in the NICU is fresh. There are a few things that have helped me to relate to people with “normal” pregnancies. My son was born at 27 weeks at the end of last January. Thankfully he was a very healthy, albeit rather small, baby. However, like you, I had no third trimester and I had no time to get his room ready!

    The first thing that has helped me is simply understanding that often people see their own situation as extreme and have a hard time relating to something different (ourselves included, though time in the NICU IS extreme in the pregnancy world!). So when a woman is complaining of her pains of third trimester, I just believe her that it isn’t fun. I acknowledge to myself that going through those pains would have been way better than having to spend time in the NICU, but if I had never been in the NICU what would have I been saying about those third trimester woes?

    The second thing is humor. I believe that everything in life goes smoother with a bit of humor, I just don’t always remember this! I joke about the things I missed out on instead of dwelling on the fact that I missed out on them. I do believe there has to be a bit of a time between everything and being able to joke about that, because none of us would say we prefer having no time to prepare than actually having time to prepare. But I do believe if we allow ourselves we can find the humor that there is in each of our situations, though I do not believe all the procedures and tests and such our little ones went through are funny. However a few of us parents joked about how blood transfusions are like giving red bull to babies because the baby often grows and develops better after getting one, so the fact that my baby needed on isn’t funny, but things about it can be.

    Lastly I will end with, our own healing process has to be taking place for these 2 things to help. For all of my son’s NICU stay and when he came home on oxygen I would look at other moms with intense jealousy when I saw them out and about with their child. At that time it was hard for me to try to see things from their view or even joke about my own situation.

  25. I think i understand you. A slight differet situation but i get you. My son was borderline preemie but thats not what was scary. He had no kidney function and my belly always tiny. He was not expected to survive at all but on top of his kidney disease being preemie made it much scarier! I hear complaints from moms over petty things or issues that are not really issues and i stay silent because they have no idea how nice they actually have it compared to having a baby on dialysis awaiting kidney transplant. 6 months of NICU hell and depression and not knowing what would happen or if he would even reach a full year. Hes 14 months and only borderline 14 pounds. But i do feel Blessed to have my miracle here.

  26. My son was 33 weeks by the way sorry i forgot to mention. 4 pounds 2 ounces. And by some miracle his lungs worked when they said they wouldnt. He was so full of surprises! Still is! I hope he gets his kidney soon! But so far so good he is Great!

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