Dear Preemie Mom: It’s Me Again

Dear Preemie Mom: It’s Me Again

Dear Preemie Mom:

You may remember me; I wrote to you a while ago.  I talked to you about all the different challenges you might have faced and the different emotions you might have experienced. I wanted you to know that you’re not alone. And I have some other things I want you to know, too.

I want you to know that it’s okay to be afraid, even long after your baby has come home from the NICU, happy and healthy.  You might be afraid that at every doctor’s appointment you will receive bad news. You might be afraid that even though the doctors said your baby could come home, something will go terribly wrong. You have dealt with a big change, one you could not have predicted or planned for. It’s okay to be unsure about the next steps you should take. It’s okay to wonder why this happened to you.

I want you to know that you should have no regrets about anything you said or did during your time in the NICU. Not because you should do everything perfectly the first time around or not be sorry for a mistake, but because you have to forgive yourself. You snapped at the nurse that day, and she has forgiven you. You walked out in the middle of a meeting regarding your child’s future, and those people understand. I want you to know that it’s okay to forgive yourself after you have made it right. It’s okay that you said no more visitors that day because you just couldn’t talk to another person. It’s okay that you said the wrong thing to another NICU parent. I want you to know that you did your best. That’s all any of us can do. You did your best, and there might have been some mistakes and some good calls, and now it’s okay to stop being sorry.

I want you to know that the feeling you have of being overwhelmed is normal. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, discharge papers, pulmonologists, follow-ups – it’s too much for one person to deal with by herself. It’s okay that you feel like you can’t handle it. It’s okay to ask someone to help you handle it. It doesn’t make you weak, or unwilling to get the job done, or incompetent. You are strong. You are doing everything you can. It’s okay that it seems like everything you have to do will never get done.

I want you to know that it’s okay to feel like you are not up to the challenge of raising a kid with atypical needs. It’s all right that you feel like this was a mistake, that you are unqualified to be a mother to a little baby who needs so many things. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your baby, or that you won’t be a great mother. You will be. You are. But it’s hard to have a kid who is different. It’s hard to adjust when plans change suddenly and with no chance to prepare. It’s really hard. But you can do it. I know you might not believe me today, but you can do it.

Mostly, I want you to know that everything will be okay. It may have been three months since you brought your baby home, or three days, or three hours. Or three years. And still you are surrounded with the chaos that became your life in an instant, when you went from knowing the future to having no idea where to even turn for help. You still check on your baby in the middle of the night to make sure he is breathing. You go out of your way to avoid the hospital where your baby was born and spent the first months of his life. You feel frustrated and sad and then guilty that you feel that way, even though your baby has been home for a long time. Even though he is no longer a baby, but a toddler, or a big boy. Your child might not look like a preemie anymore – no one would know if you didn’t tell them. Or maybe your child struggles in some areas that make it obvious that he needs extra help.

No matter what, it’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay. You think the memories of your days in the NICU, of watching your baby fight for life, of listening to a doctor prepare for the worst will haunt you forever. But they won’t. You think you will never overcome the fear that the NICU instilled in you when it comes to your baby. But you will. You think you’re never going to be able to move past that this, that this is your life forever now. But it isn’t. It will take time. It will take healing. But it will get better.

Everything will be okay.

Sincerely,

Your Fellow Preemie Mom

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The 10 Commandments of Parenting

The 10 Commandments of Parenting

I. Thou shalt not dress thyself for any occasion more than three minutes beforeth the departure time. For I say unto you, woe, WOE to the mother who thinketh she shall escape the reacheth of vomit.

II. Thou shalt abandon thy principles and alloweth thine offspring to watcheth the television, eateth the ice cream, and weareth the mismatched clothing.

Blessed is the mother whose offspring does not cryeth for absolutely no logical reasoneth. 

III. Thou shalt vow to be reassuringeth to other parents in regard to their offspring, and sayeth things like, “Surely I say unto you, Billy shalt be fineth in spiteth of his scrape;” while simultaneouslyeth vow to freaketh out over thine own offspring, and beggeth your husband to taketh them to the emergency room upon accidentally cutting a finger whilst clippingeth their nails.

IV. Thou shalt not puncheth strangers in the supermarket for givingeth dumb suggestions to thee in regards to thine offspring. Nay, verily – thou shalt worketh on thy fake smile in thy free time, and pasteth it upon thy face, and continue thy shopping in a hasty manner.

V. Thou shalt remember the Disney Channel schedule and keep it holy.

VI. Thou shalt not eateth thy Thin Mints in fronteth of thine offspring, for surely thine cookies shall perish.

VII. Thou shalt sweareth to thine offspring that if they getteth a tattoo whilst living in thine house, thou shalt also go and get an identicaleth tattoo and taketh photographs and posteth them on the Facebook for all to see.

VIII. Thou shalt not watch television programs that are not appropriateth for thine offspring, except for season finaleths, and shows you have been waitingeth to see forever, and shows that amuseth you with their humorous ways, and just forgetteth this one and watcheth what you want.

VIIII. Thou shalt make exaggerated threats to thine offspring in thy church, mall, or any other localeth place, and sweareth to them that they shall be held in captivity for twentieth years if they do not getteth in the freaking car. Thy husband shall stand beside you, pleading for you to just forgetteth about it before the cops show up, and assureth you that the offspring shalt not groweth up to be serial killers because you did not disciplneth them.

X. Thou shalt honor thine own mother and father, for they are the babysitters and savers of thy sanity.

Blessed are the grandparents, for they keepeth us from too much prison time. 

On your second birthday

On your second birthday

Dear Joshua:

Wow…today you are two years old! That just seems so incredible to me. How can you be two when you are still my little tiny baby buddy?

But as much as I don’t want to acknowledge how old you are, I have also had so much fun getting to know you over the last two years. This last year in particular has been amazing, because your little personality started to shine through. I have began to understand you better and better, and it has just been so exciting and interesting. Last year I told you about all the things you have taught me, but this year I want to tell you about all the things I have learned about you. Read more

The Mommy Wars

The Mommy Wars

Before I became a mother, I had a vague idea of what parents did. Feed child, clothe child, try to keep child from beating up other children. It was one of those subjects that I was woefully but blissfully ignorant of – I really didn’t have much use for information like which brand of diapers was best or how you need to move like a frickin ninja to escape infant projectile vomit.

I am still far from an expert, but after I had kids, I crossed over to the Other Side. No, not Narnia. The Other Side of the gap that separates parents from non-parents. The side filled with tiny onesies and 800 sets of plastic keys (seriously, do they even work in the plastic cars? Then WHAT IS THE POINT) and dogs that whisper “Hug meeee” at four in the morning when you’re walking to the bathroom. You can look behind you and see the non-parent side for a little while. Then Dora the Explorer asks you to help her find her map and before you know it the non-parent side is nothing more than a distant memory.

The parent side has lots of surprises. You learn words like “Wubanub” and “cluster feeding” and, in our case, “hyerbilirubenimia.” But one of the most unexpected surprises I encountered was the Mommy Wars. If you’re not familiar, the Mommy Wars is an ongoing battle between mothers (and occasionally fathers) over various methods of parenting. For example: formula feeding vs. breastfeeding, strollers vs. babywearing, cloth diapers vs. disposables, velociraptor vs. t-rex, etc etc. I tend to bop through life in a cloud of glitter and Skittles and assume everyone does the same, so I was really surprised to see how often these issues popped up, not to mention the intensity of the arguments they caused. Articles are flung left and right; everyone from psychologists to school teachers to children’s birthday clowns seems to have a scientific opinion on whether letting your baby sleep in your bed will scar him for life. Sometimes people start snapping their fingers and singing and that’s when you know that it just got real.

As much as I love a good argument, I found myself avoiding these particular fights as I delved into research of my own (fine, as I copied every single thing my sister did). Not because I was offended. Not because I wanted to interview those birthday clowns for myself to see if their science was accurate. No, my avoidance was due to something much simpler. Something that I think has the potential to end these Mommy Wars forever. Are you ready for this incredible secret? Here you go:

Apathy.

Yes. Apathy. I do. not. care. I do not care if you feed your child formula. I do not care if you breastfeed your child. I do not care if your child only eats hot sauce. Not because I am a serene, peace-loving person who can rise above such petty conflicts as I practice yoga in my meditation garden. I am just too lazy to care. I am tired. I am busy. I am constantly losing one of my children. So at the end of the day, whether you strap your baby to your back in a pretty wrap or with several socks tied together, I’m cool with it. Just don’t drop the kid because that’s not cool. I mean, I probably wouldn’t turn you in or anything. Actually, just writing about it has pretty much sapped my energy so go ahead and drop little Timmy; I won’t tell.

This isn’t a humble brag where I toot my own lazy horn and show you how I win all the Mommy Wars due to my lack of judging others and indifference to others’ judgment of me. Despite the awkward, chaotic mess that is my daily interaction with people, I do care what other people think of me. I’m only human. But I am a lazy human, and while I have tried hard to get worked up over the fact that Sally Smith doesn’t believe in disposable diapers…eh. What do I care? Is Sally at my house, throwing away my diapers and forcing me to use cloth ones? Has she hired Tonya Harding to bash me in the knee so I can say a lot of embarrassing things on national television that will follow me forever? No? Then…eh. Sally can have her cloth diapers and I can have my disposable ones and somehow I think the world will keep turning.

So, parents and people everywhere – join me on the Other Other Side. The side where you always feel accomplished because your kids are alive at the end of the day and that’s really all you were going for. The side where all your decisions are right because no one was paying attention to them anyway. You don’t even have to put on real pants. Take the plunge. Cross over. Drop your cares and worries at the gate – your toddler or dog will probably eat them and then you won’t even have to step over them.

Apathy: The real future of parenting. I’d put that on a t-shirt, but…eh.

Clearly my parenting is superior to yours.

Babies are like dogs (but dogs aren’t like babies)

Babies are like dogs (but dogs aren’t like babies)

I have now been a parent for almost 10 months (10 MONTHS WHY GOD WHYYYY), and while I am still relatively new to the child-raising game, I have garnered a lot of wisdom in my short tenure. For example, don’t get attached to your baby’s socks. The cuter they are, the faster they disappear in the Great Sock Void, where socks are drawn in by a guy selling candy and are never seen again. Another fun fact is that toots are deceptive. What you are smelling is probably just a toot, but since you have to make sure and unbutton those stupid PJs, look in the diaper, and stop your baby from wriggling out of his pajamas so he can finally be free like he’s always wanted, it winds up being just as much work as if the smell was actually poop.

But the most startling discovery, the most shocking, wild, unexpected bit of information I have learned this year is this: Babies and dogs have a lot in common. 
Let me clarify: Owning a dog does not equal raising a baby. I know that your precious Fifi is a lot of work and the other night you had to stay up with her because she was sick and it was very sad and that you might think it’s the same as having a baby. Stop that. Dogs are a lot of work, but at least they take their poop outside (most of the time). And dogs become self-entertaining – that tail is easy to chase pretty early on. But, in spite of the many difference, there are also a lot of similarities. Maybe the better way to say it is that I approach raising my child much like the way I approach owning a dog. Wait. That doesn’t sound right. Just keep reading. 
This is my dog: 
Ignore the terrifying eyes. He isn’t a robot. 

This is my baby:

Cute, right?? I know. 

At first glance, you might wonder what these two have in common, besides the fact that in each picture they are drooling on something. But while you’re looking for the drool in both of these pictures, consider the following list of things I say to my dog and my child on a daily basis:

– “What is in your mouth??”
– “Don’t lick that.”
– “There is no need to make that noise.”
– “Tell me what you want… you’re looking toward the kitchen… food? Is it food? It’s food!!!”
– “Is this dirt or poop?” (It’s poop. It’s always poop.)
– “This sounds like a job for Daddy… Oh, Daniel!!”
So you can see that the similarities are already building. Both my dog and child would like to chew on every electrical cord available. They enjoy rolling things into small, hard to reach places and then they enjoy crying until I find a way to reach it. They both want something that is totally, completely unreasonable all of the time: The dog would like to be a lap dog and curl up on us in spite of the fact that he is fifty pounds. The baby would like to both turn his head away from his bottle and drink from his bottle at the same time. They both have a knack for ignoring the safe, happy toys right in front of them and instead presenting me with random pieces of trash, in spite of the fact that I just vacuumed and picked up all trash in sight. 
And my baby can’t even crawl yet. I have a feeling it’s only going to get worse. 
So, other moms – tell me, am I right? Do my infant and my pooch bear a resemblance to each other? Or am I just a really terrible person who compares her sweet baby to her dog?