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

Grandma is Hurting, Too!

“Making the decision to have a child — it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
— Elizabeth Stone

 The above quote resonates with every parent, mother or father, young or old, every single time they read it. Of that I am sure. What I am also sure of is that we, preemie parents, can attest that having a preemie is so much more painful than just having your heart go walking outside your body. That heart of ours is badly bruised and so very fragile. And it’s not walking around, at least not yet. It is just laying there, day after day, waiting to hear those magic words “he is going to be okay” before it can start beating again. More importantly, it’s not broken. Far from it. Just like a preemie’s indomitable spirit. And both, our heart and our preemie, are growing stronger every day.

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Something I had not been really sure of until recently is how much grandparents are affected by their grandchild’s early birth.

Not too long ago I suddenly stopped dead in my tracks when I overheard a conversation between two women at the library where I work. The first woman asked the other one how her granddaughter was doing. All I heard were the words “preeclampsia,” “they had to take her early,” “29 weeks and 2lbs 6oz.”  I couldn’t believe it! Other than the fact that they were talking about a baby girl, they very well could’ve been talking about my son and I.

At the risk of appearing rude, I walked over to the two women and blurted out, “my son was born 11 weeks early, too!” The grandmother seemed stunned at first and I apologized for barging into their conversation. Then we had such a wonderful talk! I learned that her granddaughter was on day 25 of her NICU stay and her only issue was not being able to breast or bottle-feed yet.

I reassured grandma that her grandbaby would be feeding on her own in no time. And it was a proud moment for me when I ran to get a picture of my former 2 lbs 6oz, 29-weeker, now 2 ½ year old, 25 pound, ball of energy, to show her and to say, “See how good he looks? See how big he is?”  But I had to stop there because the tears just started streaming down my face and I was still in the middle of my work day. We said our goodbyes and I thought that would be it. I regretted how I handled the whole thing; I had felt I had made the whole discussion about me and my preemie.

However, a month later, the grandma was back in the library and when she saw me she exclaimed, “my granddaughter is home!” And then she said something I will never forget. She said, “Thank you so much for sharing your story. It helped me so much! I had been so worried about my granddaughter and my daughter that hearing how well you and your son was doing really made me feel like I could breathe again.” And while I can’t be sure of it, I like to believe that is when her heart started beating again.

Beth Puskas About Beth Puskas

Beth Puskas (NY) is a children's librarian and has one child, Benjamin, born by emergency c-section at 29-weeks after Beth developed severe preeclampsia in 2013. Ben also was born with a cleft lip and palate. He came home after a 68-day stay in the NICU and spent the next year having his cleft lip and palate repaired. Despite a global developmental delay, Ben is a thriving, happy, toddler who loves to laugh. Beth hopes to use her experience to help other families.

Comments

  1. Susan Hundley says:

    Beth, Thank you so much for writing about being a grandparent to a preemie. As a grandmother to twin 26 week granddaughters, who were in the NICU for 96 days and just turned 2 years on October 6, I appreciate you writing about grandparents. My daughter was having the perfect pregnancy when suddenly labor started at 24 weeks. She was rushed to another hospital with the best NICU for preemies. While labor was able to be stopped for 10 days, the babies were born at barely 26 weeks. I was with my daughter and son-in-law the 10 days that they were preventing delivery and watched my daughter receive mag (which made her extremely sick), injections for the babies lungs and many, many times when she had much of the staff rush in to reposition her because one or both babies heartbeats were going so low. I felt so helpless watching my baby go through this and was so worried about my granddaughters – yet I needed to be strong and positive. When my granddaughters were born, I entered the preemie life of holding my breath every second – again, hiding my fear to remain strong and positive. I was there every day of their 96 NICU stay. I initially let friends know that the twins were born, but I cut off all contact shortly after because I could not take the sadness I heard in my friend’s voices. When the twins came home, my friends still did not understand what we were going through. I spent 12 hour days helping my daughter and son-in-law until the twins were 7 months old, then with their feeding greatly improved, I came to help 8 hours every day. Eventually, my daughter only needed me a few hours a day or to help to take them doctor appointments if her husband was out of town on business. During this time (which I am forever grateful I could be with my daughter and granddaughter), I felt uncomfortable with my friends. They did not understand and I did not have the right words to tell hem. Now I do. I should have said “My granddaughters have made their appearance much earlier than we hoped, so please pray for these two beautiful, precious babies – I will keep you posted.” Next, I should have given updates that shared what I felt : “I am so in love and so very proud of our two little fighters as they continue to amaze me every day!” Finally, I should have “cried on a few shoulders” – I have amazing friends, whom I am sure would have been very comforting to what I was experiencing. You did the best thing you could have, by showing your pictures of your precious little guy to this grandmother because you were telling her there is hope and joy in the future – everything to a grandmother! I watch my granddaughters as they run and play as any 2 year old and cherish every moment. When they hug and kiss me, my heart melts. Grandparents of preemies know we have witnessed miracles and never take any “typical moment” for granted. Thank you again for remembering grandparents of preemies!

    • Hi Susan,
      Thank you so much for your kind words! and for sharing how you felt and still feel about your preemie grandchildren. I would have explained more in my post but there was not enough space (nor did I feel it was the right space to do it in!) Both my parents had passed away a few years before so I really never knew how much it must hurt to see both your own child and then your grandchild suffer so much until I met that woman. I am just so glad that I had the opportunity to meet her and then be able to write about it and thereby help others! I firmly believe we sometimes have to go through the hard stuff in this life so that we can then help others.
      Thanks again for writing and I am so happy you and your grandchildren and their parents are doing so well! They are very blessed to have you, too 🙂

      • Susan Hundley says:

        Hi Beth, Thank you for your kind words in your reply! On the twin’s second birthday, I unpacked my emergency suitcase I had kept ready to grab, if we suddenly ended up back in the hospital with one or both babies. I knew then, that my heart could accept that they really are healthy toddlers! Grandparents, as many NICU parents experience Post Traumatic Stress after the babies are home. So, once again, I wish to thank you for remembering grandparents in the NICU experience.

  2. Leonie Bromley says:

    To My Brave Daughter
    Your journey started on the 27th December 2014 when you sent me a message I THINK I’M Pregnant over the next few weeks messages back and forwards the pregnancy was confirmed I could sense your shock and excitement you told your partner who was also in shock eventually the rest of the family was informed everyone was over the moon especially your brave little sister who in 2011 had a pregnancy but it was found the baby had enancephily so it was not to be, she was so excited she would eventually see one her nieces or nephew being born as she had missed her two nephews and niece’s birth.
    Then things started to go downhill because of your age 41 yrs you smiled and took it all in your stride tests and doubts from the medical staff still did not phase you I’m sure you were putting on a brave face for me Downs Syndrome was mentioned still you didn’t worry you would love it anyway I am so in awe of you! needles in your stomach ultra sounds lots of stress and still you smiled only thought the best and kept it all inside. Finally you got your good news you were having a healthy baby boy due on the 27th August 2015 your relief and your tears of happiness made me realize how much you were trying to protect us by keeping your thoughts and worries to yourself.
    You were sick quite a lot but that’s pregnancy for you still you smiled went to work and looked after the family as best you could. Then the dreaded phone call on Wednesday 27th May 2015 at 6.00am “mum my waters have broken I’m on my to hospital” said in a calm voice you were so sure all would be OK meanwhile I was panicking but your reassurance and picturing your smiling face made me pull myself together you were so brave. Up to hospital there you were hooked up to everything joking and smiling with your partner, sister, nurses and me watching you enduring the horrible painful needles to help this little man survive (oh how I wish I could take away just some of your pain) but you smiled through it all and kept it all inside I’m so in awe of you. Off to the RBWH by ambulance as there was no room in the GCUH.
    You or bub held off for 2 1/2 days you still enduring more painful procedures and being away from your family, through if all you smiled and joked keeping your worries to yourself we came up to Brisbane each day but on Friday 29 th May we went home only to be called back later that night your labor had started and there was no stopping it and I’m so sad that you had to go through it without us there to support you fortunately your partner arrived with a minute to spare and cut the babies cord his name had only been decided the last couple of days welcome little tiny Noah 1022 grams who came out kicking and crying at 8.14pm you did so well 2 hours of labor (which is long for you) We all fell completely and hopelessly in love with this tiny little miracle little did we know of the long journey ahead for you and Noah but he is a fighter just like his Mum. Up to hospital each day and night you stayed in the Ronald McDonald house which was down the road expressing breast milk every three hours to give Noah a good start the pressure was on you had this beautiful baby boy but you couldn’t cuddle him or take him home or feed him he forged ahead in leaps and bounds and this kept you smiling even through all the tears because your milk didn’t come in I know you felt a failure but the opposite is true you tried so hard you are so brave and I’m still in awe of you I will never know what you went through as I have not experienced anything like it at all sometimes I didn’t understand all I could do is be there for you and do what I could even phoning you every three hours to annoy you to express you always smiled and never lost it with me what a pain I was but it was my way of supporting you because I Love you and think you are so brave and courageous. You finally got your cuddles the look on your face when you had that first cuddle will be with me forever.
    Noah was finally transferred to GCUH on the 23rd of June they lost half his keepsakes from RBWH but you just smiled kept your cool and forgave them. Noah progressed and it was hoped he would go home soon you went to the hospital everyday at least twice staying for hours at a time just cuddling him and caring for him as much as you could all the while smiling and staying calm every now and then it would get too much for you but you would smile and get over it quickly. At 6 weeks Noah had his vaccinations and things started to deteriorate (not because of the vaccination) he became very snuffly you told them but they just brushed it off saying it was milk in the back of his throat and nose but you knew (mothers intuition ) it was found he had contracted type b influenza and had to be isolated and masks were to be worn but you kept up your spirits and ours with that smile from then on it was one step forward and two steps back lots of desats which was very hard to watch but you stayed calm and smiled and kept it all inside so as not to worry us. Again I’m in awe of you and so proud of your strength.
    Things were getting a little better until we had a problem with a midwife and nearly lost Noah because of her bad judgement its something that will stay with me forever watching that little baby going blue fighting to breath and passing out not breathing but you stayed cool calm and collected and smiled while bringing your baby back to life.
    Words cannot describe how I felt about you that day I am so proud and still in awe of you.
    He went back to NICU as he got worse I could see you struggling but still you smiled and cared for little Noah day in day out. I helped where I could but I couldn’t make Noah better which frustrated me. It was suggested that I step back but that was not an option when my daughter is suffering and being so brave I will be there beside her to support and do what I can to ease her burden I’m a mother after all is said and done and she will do the same one day as that is what mums do.
    Noah had eye laser surgery which sent him back to NICU for a few days but with Tammy’s determination and smile he finally came home after 100 days in hospital. Still expressing every 3 hours and feeding Noah formula which took her a couple of hours each feed You are putting a lot of pressure on yourself to give this little man your breast milk and all of your time you are like a superwoman, but being your mum I can see this is a front you are struggling and need to do what is good for yourself as well as Noah and you get a lot of support and advice from your wonderful GP Lyn It was thought Noah had a Hernia in his groin and an operation was on the cards Your stress levels were high you see the specialist, smile and wait for the verdict no operation is needed at this time what a relief I can see you relax a little at last. It is also found that Noah has a horseshoe Kidney but nothing needs to be done as yet just an ultra sound I know you are stressing about this but Noah is a fighter and he will fight this and we will tell him how brave and calm his Mum is when faced with so much drama.
    I want to thank you Tammy for letting me be a part of Yours and Noah’s Journey I love you
    from your very proud Mum and Noah’s Grandmother
    Life will never be the same from the day Noah was born!

  3. Wonderful reading! I am a dad to three preemies and know the heartbreaking pain that is felt by all. For us, we were alone in Germany with no relatives, but we made it through and look back at our preemie’s trials and see what they have overcome. Gives me hope and strength to read about what others have gone through, and how their preemies have also overcome. Thanks to all and never give up hope!

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