November 17 is World Prematurity Day. This is a day meant to bring awareness to preterm birth and the issues that may arise from having a preemie. Babies are considered premature if they are born prior to the 37th week of pregnancy. The earlier a baby is born, the higher the risk for medical issues.
My daughter was born one month prematurely. Check out my previous post to read about my pregnancy and medical issues leading up to my emergency c-section.
As I've stated previously, I will not be writing about how perfect my life is or what an angel my daughter is. Sure, there are beautiful moments and she is a real-life Disney Princess. But we are human, which means that we are flawed and we have struggles. I would rather be totally real in hopes that others feel comfortable sharing their truth. It can be so isolating when you think that you are the only person that struggles. Believe me when I say:
The struggle is REAL.
Many preemies are born with medical issues. I thank God that my daughter did not struggle like so many do. The doctors said that my body was under so much stress the last few days of my pregnancy, that her lungs were able to fully develop. That may be true, but I think that was God intervening. He knew the struggles I would have with my own health, so He helped her body along. Was she completely without issues? Nope! But could they have been so much worse? Absolutely!
Speaking of those fully developed lungs, my daughter used hers - regularly! She cried so much. I truly believed I was doing something wrong. Nothing I did seemed to stop the crying. She would not sleep for very long at a time and then she would cry. No one tells you that the first few weeks after you have a baby, you are basically a zombie. I have never felt so tired in my life! If she wasn't crying, she needed to eat or have a diaper change. Fun fact: whenever a baby (especially a preemie) gets anything wet on their clothes or in their diaper, you have to change them right away or they could get sick. Talk about stress! I went through SO. MANY. DIAPERS! Every time I would put my daughter into one of the cute outfits I had, I would barely get a photo taken before she would spit up all over it.
As time went on, I noticed that her crying seemed pained and it just never stopped. I was dealing with some post-partum anxiety (and some depression), so the crying was really getting to me. I kept imagining all the reasons my baby was in distress and they all seemed to be my fault. I did not want others to help because I was worried that they would be better at parenting my child than I was. At the same time, I desperately wanted someone else to help so that I could take a nap.
Motherhood was not turning out the way I expected.
At one of the Well Baby visits, I mentioned to the pediatrician that my daughter cried constantly. He told me she was dealing with colic and recommended gripe water to see if that would help. It did help some but the crying continued. By this point, I was absolutely certain that I was a terrible mom and had somehow broken my baby.
While doing research, I learned that colic can last up to three months. Three months?!? I needed sleep right then. How was I going to make it to the three month mark?
At the next Well Baby visit, the doctor noticed that my daughter had not gained as much weight as she should have. He asked if she had been eating enough - she had been. Then he asked if she spit up a lot. YES! He diagnosed her with re-flux and told me that many preemies suffer from this because the opening between their esophagus and their stomach is not fully formed at birth. He prescribed some medication and recommended that we look into an inclined swing that she could sleep in to help gravity do its thing.
My baby actually slept for more than 30 minutes for the first time!
It felt like a miracle. I don't remember how long it took to get to this point, but when the doctor figured out the issue, things finally got better. Did she still struggle with colic? Yes! Were there still a lot of outfit changes? Absolutely! Was I still worried that I was doing everything wrong? You better believe it! However, knowing that my baby was getting some relief from what was ailing her was amazing! Watching her sleep became a new pastime for me. As a bonus, she loved that swing so much!
No matter if your baby was born early, late, or right on time, being a first-time mom is HARD! Watching your baby struggle with something that you can't fix is even harder! Just remember that there are other moms out there going through similar situations. Don't be afraid to ask for and accept help from others, even if it is just so you can grab a 30 minute nap!