Dealing with the sadness that can come after your premature baby's birth...
Grief is a normal response to a trauma, unexpected event or loss. Most people identify with grief due to losing a loved one or someone close to them. But did you know that grief can be experienced by the loss of expectation of what you thought something was going to be like? You expected your pregnancy to be a certain way but instead it was completely the opposite. The big round belly, the maternity pictures, packing a hospital bag, or even taking a parenting class.
Or for most of us, our birth story was rewritten due to our baby being born prematurely. Instead of hearing the baby cry and then placed on our chest to experience skin on skin contact, they are whisked away to the NICU immediately. What we expected to be a beautiful and glorious moment is overshadowed by fear, uncertainty, anxiety and so much more! People may say, "well your baby made it and is fighting so why are you grieving?" This is such a complex answer and unless one walks through the NICU experience, it may be a little hard to understand. Here are a few things to consider:
The Birth Experience
In my situation my birth experience was very different than I had imagined. Once my premature labor began and could no longer be controlled, I went through 10 hours of painful contractions. Jaxson's head was in position as my bag was bulging and I was leaking amniotic fluid. At the tenth hour the pain became very unbearable and I was given an epidural. A few minutes after it was administered, he flipped into a breech position and starting getting distressed. For the best chance of saving him, I was rushed down the hall to the OR for an emergency C-Section! This definitely was not the ideal plan. I did tell my OB to do whatever it took to save my son, I just didn't know how quickly our condition would change and cause for an emergency intervention. Definitely not the ideal situation that I imagined or planned in my head
- I didn't know too much about the NICU prior to my son being admitted there. I knew the basics but experiencing it first hand was something I could have never imagined I would endure. What I experienced was the constant struggle of "feeling like a mom" and being able to perform motherly duties. Jaxson was very critical and we weren't able to hold him for 28 days!!!!! I felt robbed of being able to immediately bond with him and comfort him. I had to ask permission to touch my own son! My options were limited in regards to what I could do for him. My role as a parent was limited. I pumped around the clock, prayed and showed up everyday to be by his bedside. Sometimes just staring, other times assisting with his cares that took place every 3 hours. There were times that I felt guilty and wished I could trade places. My heart hurt seeing him in his isolette with tubes and wires. For the first 4 months of his life I was robbed of the chance to rock him to sleep every night or see his face first thing in the morning.
Life after birth
- I gave birth to Jaxson on a Saturday and I was discharged on Wednesday. By far one of the hardest things I had to do was leave my baby at the hospital while I went home to recover. We didn't get the opportunity to come home as a family right away. My heart literally hurt, I carried this precious baby and I had to trust that he was being taken care of by someone else while I wasn't there. To say this was hard is putting it lightly. It would take 119 days before we were able to leave the hospital as a family of 3. There were days I would leave the hospital and see a new father running to get the car while the mother of his child waited patiently in a wheelchair holding their new bundle of joy. The pain was indescribable. I was forced to grieve each and every time I encountered this while still holding onto hope that one day we would have that same enthusiasm and chance of bringing Jaxson home.
Home sweet Home
- Once we finally had the opportunity to bring our son home, there was a sigh of relief. We made it! Not all babies come home from the NICU unfortunately. Adjusting to Life After The NICU can be a unique experience. While the baby may have endured many medical challenges, some are often times sent home with medical equipment. Jaxson was discharged with oxygen, a pulse ox and 4 medications. So our home sweet home definitely looked different than the status quo.
My grief came in different waves; certain things could trigger it, like seeing a pregnant woman would cause me to feel a lump in my throat and immediately cause sadness. Or if I came across a pregnant woman complaining about being pregnant for SO long and wishing their baby would hurry up and come. With time, prayer and focusing on my miracle and all of the goodness that did come with it helped me to change my perspective and really deal with my grief. I combated the sadness head on and refused to wallow in it. My sons life is such a blessing and honestly, I've gained more than I've lost and for that I am grateful.
Things to Know:
- Grief, its such a tricky emotion and can look like so many different things. It can hit you out of nowhere and almost stop you in your tracks. Be aware of the signs
- Everyone has a different experience and each journey carries its own struggles.
- There isn't one way to grieve. But allow yourself to express the emotion instead of holding onto it or neglecting it.
- Also everyone's feelings are valid whether or not we can connect to them or relate. I just hope that at the end of the day we extend compassion and grace to one another for no on truly knows what its like to what in the other persons shoes.
- Surrounding yourself with positive people with good intentions is a sure way to get you out of a bad mood.
- Healing does happen. It won't happen over night- this may take time and seeking professional help may be the answer.
- Grief doesn't make you weak!
So how do you deal with grief? How do you cope with the overwhelming feeling of your thwarted expectations?