Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The things they don't tell you

I have posted before about the things they don't tell you about parenthood, and I thought I would revisit the subject again today. I had a rough pregnancy, and when Micah was born, we had quite a few challenges getting him to eat. That was one of the "things they don't tell you."

Nevertheless, I'm so thankful Micah hung in there long enough to avoid NICU time, and I'm so grateful that I was able to bring him home with me when I left the hospital. I've had two friends recently give birth very early - one friend at 31 weeks, and another friend gave birth to twins at 33 weeks. Thankfully, the 31 weeker made it home after 3 1/2 weeks in the NICU, no complications. My other friend's twins are doing well, but she recently learned that one of them has a heart condition. I think another one of the "things they don't tell you" is how hard it is to go through those first few weeks when you have a baby in the NICU. I cannot speak from personal experience, but leaving your baby (or babies) at the hospital must be devastating. Watching them struggle to grow and learn to eat . . . well, that is something I understand. It is exhausting to work so hard to bring those little ones along. And there are scary and frustrating times, too. I think we all expect to give birth and have a baby that grows and eats and is just . . . well, a baby. While you never can appreciate the demands of even a "just a baby" until you have one, I don't think anyone really can communicate how difficult things are when you are dealing with a preemie. They need to grow strong enough so eating isn't exhausting, and they have to learn to suck, and they have to figure out how to suck and eat and breath all together, and have enough energy to do that 8-10 times per day! I guess I just wanted to congratulate those moms of preemies out there . . . the challenges you face are more than anyone ever expects from a baby.

I have another friend who has been having a rough week with her 3 month old son. He has been waking up 4 or 5 times a night, and she is exhausted and melting down. That is another one of those things they don't tell you - those days are terrible. I remember the exhaustion from the early weeks, and the utter frustration I felt sometimes when I was functioning with no sleep and feedings were not going well, or Micah was fussy about something. We still occasionally have those nights (and sometimes 2 or 3 of those nights in a row) and they are the pits! In those moments, I kind of understood how some mothers come to hurt their children (and don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that I ever wanted to hurt Micah, just that I suddenly could understand how someone might get to that point).

My advice to new mothers is this: it is so important to allow yourself that frustration and find an outlet, and figure out how to walk away and take the time you need to recover. For me, there were nights I just turned to DH, woke him up, and said "I just can't do this anymore tonight. I don't care if you are tired, I don't care if you need to give him a bottle of formula, and I don't care if you have to stay up all night rocking him, but you need to take him and I am going to sleep" and I would walk away and go to sleep. I think recognizing my limits and asking for help (or walking away) was critical to keeping my sanity. We mothers feel guilty when we get that tired and frustrated. We feel as if we should find every moment joyous and exciting, because we are just so happy to be parents and we are so full of love for our children. I think I have learned that being frustrated and at wits end is nothing to feel guilty about - it is just one of those "things they don't tell you."


Christian Housewife said...

I was a preemie and spent a month in the NICU and my mother to this day still talks about it. I am praying for them. Thank you for posting this.

Krissy said...

I totally agree. At a La Leche League meeting when I mentioned giving Andrew to my husband and just walking away at times, they said that is something more mothers need to do and recognize when those feelings are coming.

In my case, I'd give him to dh and about 5 minutes later beg to have him back again. Yeah, I am a sucker for my kid. But those 5 minutes make a WORLD of difference.

Prather Family said...

Thanks for posting this Tess. I had tears in my eyes reading this. Yes it is really hard to leave your babies at the NICU every day and you know that the only thing holding them back is the fact they haven't learned how to eat. I sometimes get frustrated when things go so well and then they decide they don't want to eat at all. I wish they would learn faster, but I know eventually they will get it and be able to come home. Then I will be wishing for the help of the NICU nurses and the sleep I get to have while the nurses take care of my babies at night. I really haven’t hit the hard days yet when you think about it. I got a good report on both babies today and Addison’s heart problem seems to be a one time fluke as of now, at least that is what the doctors are saying. She will still stay on the medication to help make sure things stay working properly.