Guest Post featuring Kassi: [Dear Self: You're Now a Preemie Mama]

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Dear Self,
You’re going to make it. I promise.
Right now you’re all tears, hospital gowns, tubes and amniotic fluid after your water broke this morning, a surprise because the hospital sent you home just 12 hours ago after a round of magnesium sulfate to stop preterm labor. That neonatal doctor you’ve never met tells you the good news--the survival rate for babies born at 30 weeks is nearly 98%. But there’s vision problems, hearing loss, asthma, BPD and cerebral palsy, not to mention physical and developmental delays. Oh, and babies born at 30 weeks do not have the suck-swallow-breathe reflex. So there’s that. Your baby cannot even eat. You may want to go ahead and decide on the name now, you know, just in case she’ll say before leaving.

But the thing, they’ll tell you, is that you could (could) carry your baby to term with your water broken. So buckle down for a two month stay in these desolate accommodations in the PICU.

Actually, I still don’t know what PICU stands for. All I know, is that you’ll feel like you’re shoved in the back corner of the hospital in a room with a view of a construction crate. Unfortunately you won’t be there long; it’ll only be a day and a half or so and labor will start. It’s not joy-filled and exciting. You will be scared and sad and disappointed in yourself.

All I can tell you is that you’ll get through it. And go ahead and toss your dreams of having an epidural out to the same place your dreams of a calming birth plan went. That’s not happening. But your husband will be sweet when he breaks the news. You’re so blessed to have him.

Believe it or not, you won’t notice the small army of medical personnel on hand as you deliver. Lucky for you, they will delay cutting the umbilical cord and place your daughter, Nora, on your chest for a moment after she’s delivered.

Suddenly, it will be quiet then because everyone left, including your first born child with the beautiful dark hair. Eventually, your favorite nurse wheels you up to the post partum rooms. Surprise! A room at the back of the unit. Since you don’t have a baby, the nurses won’t come often to check on you, which is all for the better, because it will take you awhile to figure out how to juggle the breast pump set up. You won’t even be embarrassed to ask so how does this work after everything that’s happened the last week.

Yes, pumping hurts, too. What no one tells you is that in a couple of months when you’re trying to get Nora to nurse without a nipple shield, the hurting starts all over again. Remember when you chuckled to yourself in Motherhood Maternity at seeing a hands-free pumping bra? Well guess what? Your mother-in-law will buy you a nice one and you’ll want to kiss her.

Lucky for you, between her and mom, they’ll get you situated with nursing tanks, yoga pants and pads (Yes, that’s why they still make those-it’s for the post-partum moms.) because you didn’t have that perfectly packed hospital bag ready at the door.

You won’t need a cute little going home outfit for Nora. That’s not happening for twenty-two days. In fact, she won’t even wear clothes the first nine days of her life, and then one day you’ll come in the NICU after lunch and there she’ll be in the hospital’s faded leopard print onesie and you’ll be a blubbery puddle of tears because this is the first time she’s worn clothes.

Oh no, it’s not the first time you will cry. You’ll cry often. Several times a day, often for no reason at all. But the worst was the third day. You will be in the hospital main lobby after literally being asked to pack and leave in 10 minutes since you’re being discharged. And you’ll ride the elevator down with a happy couple carrying a seemingly-enormous baby in an infant car seat and you’ll watch five other couple walk out with their babies as you head to the NICU wing. And then you can’t move, can’t stand, can’t breathe because the tears just come and take your breath away. It’s the worst day of your life. You leave that hospital without your baby that night.

Right now you don’t know how lucky you are. Since you received those two steroid shots, Nora will only need a cPAP for the first 8 hours of her life. She will breathe unassisted after that. She won’t have the “episodes” other babies on her row will, when they forget to breathe and all of a sudden the comforting beeping of the machines turns to alarming screeches. Scans will confirm she doesn’t have brain bleeds and the ophthalmologist says her eyes are normal. Your NICU stay will be uneventful.

Nora’s biggest hurdle will be learning to feed. It is a major feat to transition a baby and mom from exclusively pumping to exclusively breastfeeding. You won’t realize it at the time but it will be quite stressful for you and before long, you’ll notice it in your milk supply. It will be hard to restrain yourself from kissing your favorite nurse when she gives you a nipple shield for the first time. It will make all the difference and going home will be just around the corner.

And then you receive the phone call one morning as you’re trying to get gone heading to the hospital. Why don’t you bring some clothes and plan to room in for a couple of nights. Nora is close to being discharged.

You’re going to panic, but you shouldn’t. You can buy some preemie clothes at that nice resale shop. Since you didn’t have a baby shower, a trip to the store for the bare essentials will be in order. There won’t be a nursery to bring Nora home to, and it will hurt your heart; just another little detail of the birth experience you feel like you’ve missed out on. In the grand picture, it’s a detail that doesn’t matter, but at the time, it will feel BIG to you.

Truth be told, the time you spend in the NICU prepares you so well to be a confident mother. Think of it, you’ll learn from nurses, the nurses that care for the fragilest of babies. You’re lucky to have those women as teachers.

Before you head out on that beautiful day-July 9th, the Day of Discharge-make sure to get the number of that sweet mother who has a daughter on your row that you always run into in the pumping room. She will soon become a friend you treasure, your daughters will play together.

Here’s something someone will forget to tell you: having a preemie at home is hard. The anxiousness you feel as she sleeps without any reassuring beeps from monitors will subside. There will always be new worries in its place, before eye appointment checkups, the first ride in a real infant car seat, playing in public places during the winter, before developmental delay screenings. Please don’t be surprised when a tidal wave of sadness and depression washes over you about six months after her birth. So many preemie mothers have it worse than me, you think, I don’t have the right to feel sad. All this happened because of me and my body’s crappy cervix. You have got to talk to your husband. Talk to anyone. Please.

As I write this to you, Nora is 17 months old, and she’s absolutely stunning, inquisitive, smart and sweet. She loves to make you laugh, can sign (some), is almost walking, adores books, food, and climbing on things.

The view from this side is beautiful; you are going to love it. And don’t worry, you won’t ever forget, because you’ll find ways to share with other preemie moms.

You’re going to make it. I promise.


Thank you, Kassi!! I've LOVED having you post here for the past few days and thank you for sharing your journey. Your sweet Nora is one adorable little girl and absolutely blessed beyond measure to have YOU as her momma. xo :)

Don't forget to follow Kassi on Instagram for more adventures in motherhood, real flavors, real food, and simple meals for the whole family!!


  1. What a powerful and inspiring post. While I didn't have this experience with Mason, if I were in this situation, I'd definitely want to read this and would definitely share with anyone I know going through this. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Oh my goodness, I read this post with tears running down my face. What a beautiful post and way to celebrate your amazing little girl. Nora is one beautiful blessing.