What You Should Know If You Have a Preterm Baby

I’ve always wanted to do a “What to do if you have a premie” post except I’ve never had a premie; and while I could look stuff up and ask around, I didn’t feel like I could give true insight on it. So when Lucy Williams wrote me and said, “I wanted to offer my experience to you in case you ever decide to do a "having a premie" post."  I jumped at the chance.

I think this is list is a great post to tuck in your mind just in case you pull the premie card.

As aways, PLEASE add any insight, resources or suggestions to help other parents that may be going through this – I always appreciate it!

– Amy

 

If you have just had a preterm baby, welcome.  Welcome to the exclusive club you never wanted to join.  I welcome you because you are my sister now.  Initiation is a bitch, but I promise you at the end of this you will find strength in yourself you never knew you had.  I am not going to tell you everything will be alright – that would only be dismissive of the totally legit worry you have.  This is hard, hard stuff.  But I can tell you that you can do this.  You are strong.


A few things I wish someone would have told me when I became the mother of a premature baby:


1.  

Take all the help you can get.  When people ask if they can help – refer them to the list below.

 

2.  

Be aware you might not make as much breast milk as a full term mommy for a variety of reasons (your body didn’t have as much time to start making milk, you may have had a traumatic birth, your placenta may not have come all the way out on its own, you were probably separated from your babe shortly after delivery, etc).  Lots of people in those first days will tell you it’s your job to make milk for the baby and then your body may not cooperate.  It is one of life’s cruel jokes and it’s not your fault!

 

3.  

Did you hear me when I said “it’s not your fault”.  I want to repeat this again – none of this is your fault.  There are drug addicts that have perfectly healthy full term babies so it is not your fault, or your body’s fault.  There are a million reasons you can go into premature labor and bad luck is one of them.  Treat yourself nicely and get help if like me you felt insanely guilty over something that you logically know wasn’t your fault.

 

4.  

On the other end of the spectrum you may not be feeling guilty.  You may be PISSED!  Pissed at your doctor, pissed at the hospital, pissed at your higher power, pissed at the freaking world.  Why did this happen to your baby!?!?!?  Feel free to get angry – just try and channel it in the right way.  Like try not to focus it ALL on the NICU nurses, they are good peeps and they work hard (that is not to say that you can’t complain to the Charge Nurse if it is warranted).

 

5.  

Don't feel like every mom but you is with the baby 24/7.  They aren’t, or if they are they will pay for it later. Go home and get some sleep.  As the NICU Nurses love to say “You have the most expensive babysitters in the world” - use them!  You aren’t going to make it through this marathon if you run at full speed the whole time.  Pace yourself.

 

6.  

Don’t feel bad if you don’t think your baby is cute.  Seriously, it is hard sometimes to see past the tubes and wires to that cute little earthling underneath. They look different than you are expecting, see through skin and fur were off-putting to me at first and then I felt guilty for not thinking he was the cutest thing in the world (yeah I had a lot of guilt)

 

7.  

Take lots of pictures and journal - you are in shock -you may not remember anything later and may want to know what the heck just happened. 

 

8.  

On that note – take whatever “memorabilia” you can from the hospital – their first pacifier, first diaper (not the ACTUAL first diaper because that is disgusting, but one of the leftovers when they move up a size), anything that will show their tiny size and will help get through to all the people that might want to visit when they go home just how fragile they are.

 

9.  

Decide whether you want to go public on social media or keep things private.  Even if you are keeping it just family and close friends you may want to designate one person to keep everyone updated so you aren’t constantly sending updates.  Sites like caringbridge.com can help you disseminate information or email and Facebook work as well.

 

10. 

NICU moms are more prone to Post Partum Depression (see guilt and anger above).  If you even think that this might be happening then go talk to someone.  Your OB, the NICU Social Worker, a therapist.  Just start talking.

 

11.

Make some premie parent friends.  No one can understand the emotional roller coaster like another parent of a premie.  Although, one word of caution – steer clear of the parent that tries to play the “my baby is getting better faster than your baby” or “my baby is sicker than your baby” game.  All our babies are in the NICU for a reason and we all need support in our lives. I found my tribe through the preemie baby board on inspire.com, handtohold.org and through the NICU social worker who introduced me to other premie parents.

 

Things to help a premie parent:

1.   There are a lot of people who will tell you what to say and not say to a premie parent and lots of people would disagree with those people but here is one that almost never fails:  “Congratulations, your baby is beautiful.  I am so sorry they are in the NICU.  How are you doing?”  And then listen.

2.   If you want to help, here are some ideas:

  • Send a care package with snacks, a water bottle, hand sanitizer, nice lotion, gift card for e-books or paper books
  • Send money for gas, restaurants or lodging if the person lives far away from the NICU so they can see their baby
  • Offer to babysit their other children, watch their dog, water plants, clean their house etc
  • Tell them that they and their baby are in your thoughts and/or prayers as appropriate.  Even though I am not religious, the idea of hundreds of people sending positive energy to our family felt amazing.
  • Offer to bring a meal over – bring it in a disposable container and preferably food that can be frozen and easily reheated. Or better yet, offer to organize all the people who want to help by using a site like www.takethemameal.com
  • Once baby is home, don’t be pushy about visiting. The smallest cold for an adult can be life threatening to a premie.  Trust me, they would love to see you and introduce you to the baby.  And they will as soon as they recover from the trauma and feel comfortable.  If they are ready for visitors, be prepared to sanitize yourself before going near that baby.


I am 14 months out from this life changing event and I still don’t have my head fully wrappe d around it.  I am sure I missed a ton of great resources and advice for a premie parent, so please feel free to share yours in the comments.  I am always looking for new ways to support my friends who are parents of premies.


Lucy Williams isn’t a writer or anything cool like that.  She is a nerdy Data Analyst who enjoys spreadsheets and databases and hopes to one day make use of her Masters in Library Science.  She is mommy to Emrys, her 2 ½ lb 28 weeker who is now too heavy to carry down the street.  Her hubby Richard hails from Wales (not Whales) and is the rock she leaned on during not only a premature baby but the surgery that followed during which the doctors removed a 3 lb benign tumor.  Poor Emrys was the messenger that saved his mommy from her hibernoma, a rare tumor of the brown fat in her abdominal cavity.  This is the fat we all have to keep us warm as babies, but in Lucy it turned out to be the thing that put her baby in harm’s way (oh, the irony!)  She now volunteers to supports parents who have babies in the NICU in her spare time and occasionally enjoys a glass of wine or a good dystopia novel.

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P.S. XO Party Boxes

Throwing a baby shower isn’t too complicated right? Blue for a boy, pink for a girl, and yellow or green for a sweet little mystery.

Except when you try to find all the stuff, and nothing matches. Or you can’t find the sweet little tassel hanging thingies you saw on Pinterest.

Well, enter P.S. XO.

"We deliver beautiful parties right to your doorstep, reducing stress and giving you more time to enjoy milestone moments with your loved ones. "

They sent me the It’s a Boy! Baby Shower Party Box, and holy crap is it ever beautiful. You can tell a lot of care and thought went into picking the items instead of running around the dollar store screaming “Feck! The shower is tomorrow and I can’t find those stupid straws I wanted.”

 

 

At first I balked a little at the price for the full party box – $100 isn’t cheap – but if you’re working with more budget than time, then this is a real life-saver. Plus, all the running around is already done for you so you’re not making expensive mistakes along the way. 

They also have boxes for Halloween, Themed parties (princess, pirate, jungle, etc.) and just plain ole pretty.

They also just launched an app that allows you to plan a party directly from your iPhone and iPad – from designing the invitation to sending thank-you notes. Easy peasy.

Anyway, it’s something to consider when you’re pulling your next party together. Throw in a store bought cake and a bottle of tequila and you’ve got yourself a damn good time. Maybe that’s just my parties.


Win a Party Box!

So after I saw how beautiful these boxes are I told the folks at P.S.XO they should really give one of these away on the site. They said “sure!” So enter below for your chance to win a box of your choice. (Tequila not included.)

(Open to U.S. only)

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5 Universal Truths of New Motherhood

Yet another post from Liz over at A Mothership Down where I was like, "Yes. So yes."

– Amy

 

Motherhood is a unique journey for each of us. And by "unique" I mean pretty much exactly the same for everyone. This explains the otherwise unfathomable popularity of baby forums, where 8,000 women can log on and ask a variation of the question "why is my baby trying to ruin my life by never sleeping for more than 25 consecutive minutes?" and that question will yield 16,000 responses because each member will want to weigh in at least twice for the sake of camaraderie. This is because it is a universal truth of new motherhood that sleep deprivation will make you want to knock yourself unconscious (banging your head on the infant carseat works well for this) so you can get some blessed down time.

I was recently talking to a friend of mine who is also a new mom, and she, with no small degree of incredulity, said, "You know, all those things people tell you about being a new mom are actually true!" Those things that you heard and quickly dismissed as being not-applicable to yourself and your unborn child. Once the baby arrives, you're all "F*ck, that wasn't exaggerated?! What in the!?!? Did everyone know this?!? And if so, why are there so many new children in the world?"

While of course your individual experiences will vary somewhat (i.e. your baby's shit might get on your pants or it might get on your shirt), the common denominator (of shit) cannot be escaped. The thing is, there are some universal truths to new parenthood, and it's in everyone's best interest to get comfortable with this notion right out of the gate. And by gate I think it's clear I mean vagina.

Here we go:

1.

While you will love your child with all of your heart, you will also most passionately feel this love when your child is sleeping.  If you think about it, it would make more sense to get a doll, since dolls and sleeping babies are pretty much the exact same thing, except that you can leave dolls in your car while you run into Target without the fear of police involvement.

2.

However disgusted you are at the secretions of other people's children, when it comes to your own child you will mindlessly roll around in her bodily fluids with the reckless abandon of a raccoon on spring break.  My baby shit out an entire banana the other day, and I was so distracted that it didn't even occur to me not to slather it on my own hands in a kind of impromptu lotion. You are now disgusting to other people, but you don't give a shit on account of the fact that the last time you slept was in 1985, best you can recall.

 

3.

You will do whatever you've got to do to get by. Think you would never co-sleep? Tell me your opinion on that after stumbling into the nursery like a partially blind and legally drunk sailor for the 50th time in a week. 100% sure you'll breastfeed? Let's have this discussion three weeks into cracked nipples and after two bouts of mastitis. Think you will bathe your kid every day? How about after the 6th time he's peed on his own face. That's your new standard. Confident that you will always use a car seat for your baby? Well, actually, you should definitely do that one.

 

4.

You really cannot get shit done when you have a baby. I know you might think you can. That would be incorrect. I know that prior to having your baby you had visions of catching up on a series of long-neglected organizational (and perhaps even crafting!) projects, in between reading Anna Karenina and writing your autobiography. You planned on having the time to do all of this because the laundry and dishes would take like an hour MAX and then, well, with the baby napping so often the rest of the day would be WIDE OPEN!

Fact: You will spend vast quantities of your time on tasks so mindless that when you're asked what you did all day, you will have to conclude that you were lobotomized, because for the life of you you have no goddamn idea how you spent all those hours. You certainly do not have anything concrete to display to prove how you spent the day. {Tip: It is helpful to keep your Facebook page open, so you can count how many times you "Liked" videos on cats or commented on "Open Letters" (which - when did Open Letters become so popular? Dear God, interweb users, you can make a point without an Open Letter!)} Regardless of how little your baby seems to be actually doing, you will be doing even less. Your life is now a show about nothing. No pair has been this unproductive since Jerry Seinfeld met George Costanza.

5.

Meeting and befriending other new moms is like dating other temporarily mentally unstable people. It's Tinder meets Girl, Interrupted, but with plumper lead actresses. Finding mom friends with babies the same age as your own, who are available for mid-day socializing, is more stressful than finding a mate. Now the stakes are REALLY HIGH because you are so hormonal that without proper social support you will end up in the fetal position of your disorganized nursery, and who knows who will watch your baby. (Note: this is another reason to consider just getting a doll. Although it is hard to make a pitch to be a stay-at-home mom to a doll, so factor that in when considering your options.)

What "Universal Truths" did you discover once you had kids? This list is not comprehensive, because, let's be honest, I need to get back to my queue of cat videos. They're really piling up.


Liz spent much of the past decade as a social worker and photographer, earning very little money but having the opportunity to travel widely and meet many interesting people, including a drunk Canadian who cut her a mullet on a dare. Now a full-time mom and blogger, Liz is continuing her quest to make no money and spending her days wondering why her son so closely resembles a ham. While many, many people call her Mother Earth, she finds that cumbersome. Please just call her Liz. Liz blogs about the joy and ridiculousness that is motherhood at the "hit blog" (her own words) A Mothership Down.

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