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

Finding Gratitude in Your NICU Experience

This Thanksgiving, we asked some of our preemie parent friends to tell us a little about what they learned about gratitude in the NICU, how some of the experiences of having a preemie have made them thankful. We asked, “What part of your experience can you look back on now with gratitude?”

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…moments were precious and we had a year of them. (Beth Bishop, Family Support Navigator, Hand to Hold)

black and white heart NICU gratitude thanksgiving

freeimages.com/Joanna Kopik

“I’m thankful for the opportunity that post NICU isolation gave me to slow down and to stay home. Instead of juggling work and play dates, I spent a quiet year at home with the girls. Every snuggle was sweeter because I could have lost one and had mourned missing out on time with the older one as well. So, moments were precious and we had a year of them.”   Beth Bishop, Family Support Navigator, Hand to Hold

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It has pushed me to be strong when all I wanted to do was hide. (Miranda Heaston, former Hand to Hold Peer Mentor)

“Being a preemie parent has opened my heart and mind in so many ways. It has allowed me to help others through their own NICU journey and instill a sense of confidence to push through another day. Has made me grateful for smart nurses and doctors who challenge themselves daily. It has pushed me to be strong when all I wanted to do was hide. But mostly, I am grateful to see my boys grow knowing what hard beginnings they both overcame.”  Miranda Heaston, former Hand to Hold Peer Mentor

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“”I’m thankful for love & support of family & friends, the strength I had to face day-to-day challenges, and the bonding time in the NICU.”  Melissa, Pump It for Preemies

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…having a preemie will turn you inside out and reveal what you are truly made of. And for that, I have to be thankful. (Beth Puskas, Preemie Babies 101 Contributor)

NICU gratitude

Image courtesy of the Puskas family

“I am thankful for time. Time that, on one hand, we can sometimes resent because of how fast it goes. But time is what preemies need to gain and grow. When you first hear a doctor or nurse tell you that in the NICU, you don’t realize then, or at least I did not, that waiting for them to gain and grow will go on long after being discharged from the NICU. After almost three years, I think I’ve finally gained enough perspective to really see how much my son has gained and grown. How much he has done just in the past year has given me so much hope for his future and helped me not to dwell so much anymore on his scary past.

Furthermore, I too have gained and grown a tremendous amount since that terrifying day when my 2 lb 6 oz baby boy was born eleven weeks early. While I would never wish the experience on anyone, I am a stronger and I hope, less selfish and more loving person for it. Prior to having my son, I really only had myself to take care of for the first 37 years of my life, and then I met my husband, and soon after we had a preemie. As you all know, having a child is life changing in and of itself, but having a preemie will turn you inside out and reveal what you are truly made of. And for that, I have to be thankful.  Beth Puskas, Preemie Babies 101 contributor

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We have an amazing story all our own and for that I am so thankful. (Jennifer Beatty, Program Director, Hand to Hold)

“No one else knows what it is like to look at my son and remember the trauma of that day instead of the joy that should have been. I still look at my six year old and see little white bumps on his skin (that I am sure no one else notices) and they remind me of the various needles that made all those scars. They are a daily reminder. At one time, that was all I could think of when I saw them. But now I try to see them now as little badges of honor of what a fighter he is. How far he has come and how strong he is. I think of how amazing and blessed I am that he is here. It is almost like a daily reminder to be grateful for him and that I get to be his mom. I don’t always meet that expectation, when life gets busy or he and I are at odds! But that is when I remember that he is like every other kid… and I am like every other mom despite our rough start! We have an amazing story all our own and for that I am so thankful.”  Jennifer Beatty, Program Director, Hand to Hold

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I held my twins a lot in their first year. For me, holding them is a gift. (Alison Lee, Multiples Illuminated)

Alison Lee multiples illuminated

Image credit: Alison Lee

“The NICU taught me two things:

1. You have to trust people. Leaving your babies in the hands of other people, especially in their first days, is hard. It was possibly the hardest thing I’ve had to do. I had to put my faith in the doctors and nurses in the NICU – faith in their abilities and their commitment to my children. My twins’ team was amazing. For that,  I am grateful.

2. I held my twins a lot in their first year – I still scoop them up for cuddles these days. When you don’t get to hold your children as much as you like for the two weeks after they are born, you don’t begrudge them that. I ignored the myth that holding children too much spoils them. No. For me, holding them is a gift. One that I am forever grateful for because my children came through their prematurity well. They are alive, healthy and thriving. I couldn’t ask for more.”  Alison Lee, twin mom and co-editor of Multiples Illuminated: A Collection of Stories and Advice from Parents of Twins, Triplets and More.

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Watching my son fight for his life taught me not to take anything for granted. (Andrea Mullenmeister, Preemie Babies 101 contributor)

canopy-sunrise- NICU gratitude thanksgiving

freeimages.com/John Bevan

“I had hoped we would be past this by now – I had hoped my 23 weeker would developmentally be caught up to his peers (he’s not). I had hoped he would not have any physical reminders of his early birth (his lungs are still weak from Chronic Lung Disease and asthma). I had hoped that we would be able to stop therapy (instead, we just keep adding more).

I had hoped that we would be able to stop talking about prematurity all the time because it wouldn’t matter. It does matter. Now, even three years later, prematurity affects our lives every single day.

Even though our journey has been scary, sad, isolating, and exhausting, it’s also been a huge blessing.

I’ve met some amazing people who I never would have met if it weren’t for our shared experience with prematurity. While I wish none of us had to experience the heartbreaking reality of a baby in intensive care, healing is easier when we know we’re not alone.

I’ve become more appreciative of the small things – the smell of flowers, the sound of the leaves in the trees, the feel of my son’s breath on my cheek as he falls asleep. Watching my son fight for his life taught me not to take anything for granted.”  Andrea Mullenmeister, Preemie Babies 101 contributor

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I was told the girls had 0% of survival if I was to deliver in the next 7 days. I had a huge shift in the way I thought and the way I reacted to small things in life that week. (Sherry Santa, Texas Parent to Parent)

“My life changed forever August 5, 2008, the day I went on bed rest at 22 weeks, 0 days with GGG triplets. I was told the girls had 0% of survival if I was to deliver in the next 7 days. I had a huge shift in the way I thought and the way I reacted to small things in life that week. I was very blessed with each week that went by. On October 9, at 31 weeks, 2 days, the girls made their grand appearance, weighing 3 lbs 8 oz, 3 lbs 4 oz and 2 lbs 11 oz and they were PERFECT. Each little milestone they met made me so happy but our happiest day was November 10, 2008 when they all three came home from the NICU! They are now 7 years old and happy healthy little girls and everyday I’m thankful for them! But in the back of my mind I think I will always remember that week of uncertainty.  Sherry Santa, Medical Education Program Coordinator, Texas Parent to Parent

 

Your turn! How has your experience with prematurity or your journey in the NICU made you thankful? What can you look back on now with gratitude?

 

Leigh Ann Torres About Leigh Ann Torres

Online Community Coordinator, Preemie Babies 101 Lead Blogger - Leigh Ann Torres is a freelance writer, blogger and mother of three living in Austin, TX. After a short and sudden bout with severe preeclampsia, Leigh Ann’s identical twin girls were delivered at 31 weeks, spending 38 mostly uneventful days in the NICU. Two years later the Torres family welcomed another baby, this time at term, with only a mild case of preeclampsia. Leigh Ann currently runs Hand to Hold’s official blog and social media channels. When she’s not doing laundry or fulfilling requests for snacks, she usually has her nose stuck in a book. You can keep in touch with Leigh Ann on Twitter or via email.

Comments

  1. I am thankful that my baby survived. I am thankful that my other children have accepted her and that they have made peace with our new normal.

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