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

How A Preemie Birth Affected My Relationships

2012-06-01 001 001My baby, Charlie, was born the day she reached twenty six weeks gestation and weighed a mere one pound eleven ounces. Where as most babies are greeted into the world amidst celebration, my baby entered the world to stunned silence. The shock and trauma of her early arrival not only stole the pure joy of what was supposed to be a jubilant event but, it (and the subsequent NICU stay) altered many of my relationships.

The relationships that existed prior to my baby’s birth were either fortified or destroyed.

I am grateful for the relationships that were strengthened. Many of my friends went above and beyond anything I could have hoped for. Their gestures ranged from things as simple as saying, “I want to help but I don’t know how” to grand expressions such as the gift of Charlie’s crib. These friends and their gestures were the reinforcement I needed when I thought I could not bear another day. My friends didn’t always know what to do but, their efforts did not go unnoticed. I will always remember each one.

Unfortunately, other relationships did not survive. The reasons for this are varied. The experience revealed to me that some of these relationships were high maintenance. I decided that they were no longer worth the effort. Other relationships were lost due to time and energy constraints. Additionally, many disappeared when the trauma created a vast disconnect between me and the other person.

1958090_10101610961477159_1081236934_n_editedIn addition to these changes, Charlie’s early arrival introduced me to people I otherwise would not have met. Some are fellow NICU parents and others are from organizations in which I am active. The relationships are unlike any friendships I’ve had prior to my baby’s birth. The best way to explain these relationships is to say we are like veterans of the same war. We have a shared understanding of things other people can’t possibly fathom.

Ultimately, I think my experience with prematurity has made me a better friend. I have a better grasp of grief, loss, mourning, and life. Now, I see much more of the gray that exists in life and can appreciate experiences beyond that of my own.

Having a preemie changed many things in my life.  For better or worse, my relationships were included in these changes.

Rebecca Wood About Rebecca Wood

Rebecca Wood (VA) is a micro preemie mom. Her daughter, Charlie, was born at 26 weeks, weighing 1 pound 11 ounces due to severe preeclampsia. She has a few long-term issues due to her premature birth including, motor development delays, vision concerns, feeding difficulties, and speech delays. Since Charlie's birth in May 2012, Rebecca has been learning the ropes of the post-NICU world. In addition to embarking on fun adventures with her daughter, she's an animal lover, a reader, a hiker, and an enthusiastic volunteer. You may connect with her on Facebook, Twitter or her personal blog.

Comments

  1. Beth PuskasBeth Puskas says:

    Hi Rebecca, i just love this! “we are veterans of the same war” sums up the relationship with fellow NICU parents perfectly. They understand me better then those friends I’ve known my whole life. Thanks for writing this!

  2. Brandon Smith says:

    We also had a 26 weeker due to preeclampsia back in 2011. 1lb, 14oz. Sooo much truth said here. Like you said, we are veterans of the same war. Not many get to experience the roller coaster of the NICU. From the progresses to the regresses. Not knowing what the next day will bring. The fear from each of the ABCs…. Cheers from a fellow micro preemie parent.

    • Thank you for the nice comment. Because the internet is limited in terms of fist bumps, here’s a shout out back to you fellow micro preemie parent. 🙂 I hope your little one is doing well.

  3. I also love the “we are veterans of the same war” line! I so relate! And I’ve found it doesn’t matter much how long a parent’s child was in the NICU, just seeing that side of the hospital changes a person. Those friends with preemie babies, even late term preemies, “got it” better than anyone else when I had my babe at 23 weeks.

    It’s a hard road. And it does put strain on relationships. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, yet I am grateful for the friends I’ve made through these experiences.

    Thanks for posting.

  4. Suzy Madrigal says:

    I love this article mostly because during this journey (my baby is still in the NICU) I’ve felt so hurtful about lost friendships and very grateful for the ones that never left my side. Reading your words was yet another reminder that we are never quite the same once we walk this path.

    • The lost relationships were some of the losses I mourned in the NICU. You’re right, it’s painful to lose people from your life when you need people the most. I’m thinking of you and your baby.

  5. Casey Friedlander says:

    That was absolutely beautiful. I appreciate the way you have expressed such a difficult experience. The highs the lows as well as the treats and smiles. But ultimately the fortunate ones, we take our babies home one day. So few understand. Thank you for that piece. It’s nice to relate rather than be alone w so many people that don’t understand

  6. Amanda Watson says:

    Unbelievably beautiful, my first and only 34 weaker 3 lbs 9oz surprised me to the core! I’m constantly guilt ridden of the moments I don’t have memories of, mostly of my own personal internal loathing. When I remind myself of all the joy and congratulating visits I should of had passing my beautiful newborn around the room for all to see and cherish, I can’t help but feel the void of that pure awesome amazing moment I and my beautiful daughter didn’t have. Bless you and your family,

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