A year ago my life shifted track when my water broke months early. Two weeks later my darling daughter entered the world 10 weeks plus a few days premature. The following months were some of the hardest of my life. I have never been as scared as I was during that time. I have never been as tired. I was always on the brink of tears, more often than not I was in tears. The silver lining was the many blessing we saw. My husband was my rock. My children were amazing. My friends and family went above and beyond. My daughter and I were both lucky enough to receive amazing medical care. We finally were able to bring our daughter home after a two month stay in the hospital and since then she has blossomed like a rose! Worldwide 15 million babies are born premature a year. For those families it will be a life changing experience. November 17th is World Prematurity Day. The March of Dimes really focuses this time a year to make people aware of the need. They have this amazing site on facebook where you can read the stories of families around the world. Some had tragic outcomes but many are stories of hope, with children who are now growing up amazingly healthy and problem free. On this day may our hearts turn to those families. May our prayers go to them. From my own experience may I offer a list of practical helps you can do.
-Be a shoulder to cry on. Don't ever ask the question, "Is this hard." Listen and give your love. Be sensitive to the fact parents of preemies are extremely scared and vulnerable. What would otherwise roll off backs will now be felt especially hard. I don't mind if you cry with me. I had many mothers who had had preemies themselves come in and shed a few tears. It gave me hope when I thought about how amazingly well your children were doing now and to know that you'd gone through the same thing. Listen to me if I need to rant and rave a little. Know someday I will return to the person you remember but right now I'm definitely in the fight part of fight or flight.
-Meals are always appreciated. For months after my daughter came home my friends would bring me a meal twice a week. There are no words to adequately express how amazing it felt to feel completely overwhelmed and then realize someone was going to be at my door in half an hour with dinner already prepared.
-Come and sit with me. I had many people come and see me while I was on bed rest in the hospital. Their visits were a welcomed break from the stress and boredom that bed rest guarantees. They would bring me puzzles, and switch out my books, they'd bring me food that wasn't from the hospital. One friend had read on my blog that my husband kept forgetting to bring my deodorant and my tweezers. When she came, she had those items for me. Other friends and family who lived far away would call or e-mail, even friends I hadn't heard from in years. Their voice and small talk were a welcomed distraction. Later when my little Rose was in the hospital I had several friends who would come and sit with me while I visited her. I loved being able to share some of her first days with others. It was good company and reassuring to hear their words of encouragement when I felt overwhelmed by the machines and noise of the hospital.
-Letters, notes, e-mails, calls, and small thoughtful gifts were always welcomed. One day I went to the mail and found a package from a friend from grad school. She'd included $40 with her package, for parking. She had been the mother of a preemie as well and it touched my heart to know how she was thinking of me, even in this small detail that I had to pay to park each day to see my child.
-Tell me my child is beautiful. When our little Rose was born she was incredibly skinny, wrinkly, and hairy. Her skin had a weird hue due to jaundice. She was often swollen because her kidneys were not fully functioning. She was covered in tubes and wires and even after she came home her checks were covered in tape, gunk, and even sores caused by the tape to help keep her ng tube in. Bless you people who told me she was precious, who snuggled her close and marveled at her beauty passed the conditions of her birth and hospital stay.
-Childcare and child entertainment are always appreciated. I had so many people who helped me take care of my other children. It was amazing how my family and friends took over where I wasn't able. They watched and entertained children, they got kids ready for school, they took kids to school and activities. Without them I wouldn't have been able to see my daughter everyday. They made what we did possible.
-Call me when you are at the store and ask if I need you to pick me anything up. When I was running the hard schedule of trying to see my baby at the hospital and mother my children at home I never had any time. Once she came home I was too worried to take her out. I actually started ordering my groceries online those first few months to keep from having to take her out. Sometimes I'd be short one or two things but just couldn't see how it was possible to take her out. Those friends who would pick up a thing here or there were doing the errand of angles, well at least that is how it felt to me.
-Pray for us. Through God all things are possible. Pray for our child's health. Pray for the doctors and nurses who care for them each day. Pray that we may have the strength to bear our burdens. Pray that we can find happiness each day and that we will have the patience necessary to deal with coming home with empty arms each night. I know that there were people all over the world, those we knew and those we didn't, praying for our little family and especially for the well being of our daughter. We felt the blessings of all that love daily.
I know I've said it before, but I will say again, and again, and again. Thank you to the friends, the family, Linda my mother-in-law, my mom, my brother David, the ladies from church, the ladies from MOPs, the people from Dr. J's work, everyone who helped us during our daughters extended hospital stay. I hope that you are able to find as much joy in the face of our little angle as we do. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!