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Carrying Cautiously: Pregnancy After a Preemie

I write this post as I sit pregnant with our third child. But to be honest, this pregnancy has been carried with a mixed bag of emotions. For those of you who may have read some of my previous posts or know me personally, you know that my son’s birth was full of unexpected challenges. My son was a preemie born at 29 weeks, weighing in at just 2 lbs., 8oz.

The journey…

After suffering a very painful abrupted placenta, I delivered our little guy into this world well ahead of schedule. Within an hour of being born, he was rushed from my side to live in a Boston NICU for nearly two months. After almost three months of hospital care, he finally came home with us. Months over months of breastfeeding challenges, terrible colic, and postpartum depression left me slightly cynical and thoroughly exhausted. That pregnancy was wrought with physical and mental turbulence. And here I am, taking another stab at it.

So am I happy about this third baby?  

Of course.  

But make no mistake; my naive and idyllic notions of a stress-free pregnancy vaporized long ago.

First, I had to reconcile the trauma of my last pregnancy before I could fully grapple with the reality of this one.

I’m not going to lie. When I first read the pee stick, I cried. A flood of anxiety overcame me. It was barely a year since my son was born and every unresolved memory of that experience suddenly surfaced back.  

Was I really ready for this? (I couldn’t confidently answer that question).

All I knew was that I had to deal with these emotions and find a way to come to terms with what had happened before I got any further into this pregnancy. It took time…and a lot of mindfulness, meditation, and self-forgiveness.

I also focused on the positives. While my previous pregnancy had been tumultuous, at best, I needed to count my blessings. My son was now thriving and finally reaching his developmental milestones. I had been able to manage my depression and finally get back into hobbies that brought me joy. Really, this was as good a time as any to welcome a new addition into our family.

Support groups, mama dates, and my spouse brought unexpected clarity and reassurance…

Please know that it certainly wasn’t a bender of soul-searching that pulled me from the woods of my own first trimester self-doubt and worry. A very special community of social media support groups and mama date nights also helped to quell the nagging anxiety that plagued me. With each comment and coffee chat came validation and consolation – something I hadn’t realized that I was missing until now.

I also spilled my doubts and fears to my husband. He was supportive and understanding. What’s more, he had his own deep-seeded reservations and putting them out in the open helped us to finally process them, together.

More doctor’s appointments, shots, and specialists…

After unpacking my emotional baggage, I began to tackle my physical health. I worked to become a more informed patient. I wanted to understand what my risks were, what symptoms I should be more aware of moving forward, and how I could better care for my body. The answer came fully-loaded with more doctor’s appointments, weekly Progesterone injections, and specialist appointments.  It has been exhausting but worth it. Call me over-prepared, but I finally feel more in control of my own health and wellness than I did with both of my previous pregnancies. It’s the peace of mind that can only come with knowing that you’re doing everything in your power to be a better caregiver for yourself – and for your baby.

But in the end, it’s all out of my control. The fragile gift of children is just that…fragile.

The most grounding truth that I have subscribed to during this pregnancy is that while we are legally bound and biologically responsible to these tiny humans, they are not bound to us. Life is fragile and the reality is that at any moment, we might not have these kiddos. Sad, I know, but it’s the naked truth. These babies aren’t really “ours” and there is a real freedom in acknowledging that. It can give us the grace to offer up the trauma, even in our darkest hours. Yet, it can also shake us into the understanding that our time with them — both in the womb and the living room —is undeniably precious.

My pregnancy after a preemie may be filled with caution, but not the kind that will weigh me down. Whatever comes, I welcome it with the courage to be the best kind of mother that I can be.

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