What better way to start my premmie blog than with a few words for the little cricket who has inspired this entire project… Tiny D himself – my little 29 weeker Dante. I already did a piece on him for my Bare Image Blog a few months back which you can check out on the Bare Image Blog along with a photo shoot of him when he hit full term but I thought this was an opportunity to talk more about what the parents of prems go through when their little one decides they’re too impatient to wait an extra couple of months to arrive in the world!
I named Dante “Tiny” when I found out I was pregnant, obviously this turned out to be one of my more intuitive moments but at the time it was purely due to the fact he was only a dot on an ultrasound. At a time when a few of our close friends were having trouble falling pregnant we felt purely blessed that we fell pregnant immediately. I didn’t have the easiest pregnancy and was quite ill from about 8 weeks until the day that I had him. But I’d take that and more if it meant that I could keep him cooking inside me for another 3 months as he was supposed to. The fear, guilt and sadness that I felt in those first few months of his life and that I still continue to feel whenever I look at photos of him in the hospital is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I believe it’s something that only parents of a premature or sick baby can really understand, but I also believe it makes us stronger as parents.
Aside from the trauma of riding to the hospital via ambulance and being put to sleep for an emergency cesarian whilst doctors and nurses are yelling things out in panic all around me there are a host of other experiences that I felt I missed out on. These things are what other parents take for granted but I found myself in the weeks after his birth overwhelmed by how I’d been ‘robbed’ of a proper pregnancy. There’s no packing of bags for the hospital, no birthing classes, no baby sleeping in my room or even holding the baby whenever you want. Sometimes there’s no holding AT ALL for quite a while. I was lucky enough to find that I bonded with Dante immediately, however it is extremely difficult for some parents as there is a complete lack of contact with your brand new baby living in an incubator hooked up to an array of machinery and tubing. And the worst part of it all, is that first day, when it’s time for you to leave the hospital but baby stays behind. I’d go through the labour a thousand times over if it meant I never had to feel that feeling again. It goes against every instinct as a mother to leave your 4 day old baby at a hospital whilst you leave to go to what now feels like an empty home.
I was in the hospital day and night and luckily enough the hospitals fought long and hard to get Dante moved closer and closer to us to make our lives easier. It was the longest 9 weeks of our lives, and the hardest. Some days I cried from the moment I woke up until the moment I went to bed. It’s a trauma I don’t think will ever leave me and often just thinking back to our time in the hospital or watching videos of him when he was so small I will still have a little cry over how hard he had to fight just to survive.
I found the most wonderful part was seeing those around us come together and help us from buying groceries, to cleaning our house or looking after our pets. It made us realise how blessed we are by those who surround us but also how lucky Dante is to come into a world filled with so much love.
The day we came home was the greatest day of my life, and even though whilst in the hospital I felt like I was slowly going mad and losing touch with the outside world, the minute I got him home where he belonged, everything in the world felt right again.
Even though premmies are different to newborns we felt like Dante’s personality shone through from the day we met him. He was always stretching and moving and on the go and had these huge dark eyes that always seemed to be talking to us. The nurses were always frustrated at him because it seemed his sole purpose was to tear out his tubes constantly, and every time I put my hand in his little tank he’d grab my hand with such ferocity as though asking me to never leave him. Now at 8 months old I can look at him dancing around wildly and babbling at me non stop whenever he’s awake and know that this is the same thing he was doing in his incubator, just a little slower and a little quieter. During the night when he cries for his dummy, he often latches onto my hand as I dig around in the cot and pulls it to his face and is asleep in an instant, it reminds me of those boney little hands latching onto me all those months ago.
I don’t know how we would have been as parents had he not been a prem but I do know this, I have found a patience and a tolerance that I never thought possible. When Dante’s crying in the middle of the night or having an all mighty screaming session that could easily deafen someone, I find myself feeling happy and thanking God, because his lungs work, because he’s home, because he’s acting ‘normal’.
When I talk to Dante I always tell him that he’s a miracle, that he’s the strongest person I know, that he’s destined to do great things and to change the world. So maybe that’s what this is all about, he’s inspired me to take a different path. Even though the thought of setting foot in a NICU or Special Care Nursery fills me with fear and I’m petrified of how I’ll react seeing other families going through what we went through, it’s Dante and his journey that is going to get me through it. Knowing that I can bring joy and hope to other families is what makes this so worthwhile. Because I feel that at a time when things feel so hopeless and frightening, maybe merely reading the stories on this blog will be what gives other parents the ability to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel!