Making my Peace

My daughter Hannah was born exactly 6 weeks before her due date. It was rather abrupt and surprising. My water broke at around 5am and she was born at 4pm. It was a Saturday and I was supposed to supervise a Brownie sleepover that evening. I was supposed to go to work on Monday. I found myself sitting in the hospital in early labour making a lot of phone calls.

“I’m sorry, but I won’t be able to make it to your engagement because I’m having a baby. I apologize for the inconvenience.” 😉

In the hospital assessment room in early labour, feeling rather shocked

Having a preterm baby left me reeling. We were completely unprepared, we didn’t even have a single diaper in our house. It’s true that you don’t need at least half of the baby gear they say you do, but there are some essential items. My husband rushed all over town acquiring goods and people brought bags full of baby supplies like hairbrushes and nail clippers as gifts to my hospital bed. There was a lot of scrambling.

Amidst the rush and panic there was wee baby Hannah. Newborns are tiny. Preterm infants are really tiny. Hannah was ‘big’ at 5lbs 4oz, but in the days following her birth she dropped to 4lbs 14oz. I look at those photos and she’s so delicate and bird-like. I was very worried for her. I wondered how such a frail little being could thrive. It added to the panic. Panicked preparations, and panic over how my baby would do.

4 day old Hannah drinking pumped breast milk in the NICU

Hannah thrived. She really, really did. By the time she was a few months old she bore no markers of her early arrival. She was an averaged sized baby who developed right on schedule. But I couldn’t really see that. I was scarred by those early weeks of Hannah’s life when she was tiny and wasn’t nursing well and I didn’t get any sleep. So scarred that I couldn’t see just how well my daughter was doing.

I carried the baggage from that time around with me for years. When I was at a local farm and saw a sheep give birth I cried. No one took that lamb away to the NICU for assessment. On each of Hannah’s birthdays I cried. She wasn’t supposed to be born that day. When Hannah’s Montessori teacher suggested that Hannah would advance more rapidly if we sent her full-time I was afraid. Afraid that she would never do as well as other children because of her beginning.

Hannah the rock star fairy, clearly thriving at almost 3 years old

(For the record, Hannah is very bright and has done much better in a different school. That particularly learning environment just wasn’t a great fit for her.)

The other day Hannah and I were looking at our YouTube videos. These are our family movies, taken over the past 6 years. Most of them feature Hannah. I was watching her play in the park with me when she was 2 1/2 and it hit me. She was just fine. She is just fine. I have been carrying around this ball of worry for almost 4 1/2 years and I didn’t need to. In that moment, I felt a weight lift off my shoulders.

Hannah at 2 1/2 playing in the park with me

We’re going to be OK, Hannah and I. She’s going to be fine and I’m going to be fine and I don’t have to worry about it anymore. Thank heavens, I don’t have to worry about it anymore.

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  1. Your kids are going to love reading your blog posts when they’re big enough to appreciate them!

  2. I cannot know exactly how you feel/felt but I do know you you feel/felt. It took a long time to admit that my wee guy was fine after a dicey few months around his birth ….. but as you’ve seen, he’s bang on normal!
    I jokingly say to him that I used up all my sympathy and worry in his first few months, with it ebbing away over the next 2 years or so. So much so that I worry sometimes that I don’t worry enough about him.

  3. Aw, loved that video – what a sweetie she is (and a better runner at 2 1/2 than both my full term babies were!)

    Speaking of, one of them is calling, so now I’ve gotta run 😉

  4. Lovely post. And she certainly is thriving!! Guess she just wanted to meet you sooner. 🙂

  5. I still bear baggage from my birth experiences, too, so I understand at least some of what you have felt (I’m paranoid about my children’s lung health because they were both unexpected c-sections, as just one example). A friend of mine recently reminded me that nearly every woman questions the birth experiences she has had, and wonders how it will affect her and her child, but in the end…we are called upon to simply do the best we can with the situation we have. Looks like you have done that beautifully. Glad to see your weight is starting to lift. Cheers!

  6. I had a train-wreck c-section with Angus, under general anaesthetic, and for a while I was convinced that he liked my husband more than me because I hadn’t been able to bond with him immediately after he was born. I do cherish my loony irrational beliefs, but this one has been difficult to sustain in the face of the fact that when we’re in the same room he likes to stick his giant head to me, and every time my husband announces he’s leaving on a business trip Angus says “yay! I get to sleep with Mommy!”

    Nice with the baby epiphanies.

  7. This is a really great post! I think my worry increased exponentially with the birth of my son. He wasn’t early. He was late and weighed 9lbs. 4oz. The birthing was dramatic and ended with an emergency c-section. When I woke I was all, “Where is my baby? How is he? Is he ok? When can I see him?” Repeat until they wheeled me to my room and put him in my arms.

  8. Oh I so had heart palpitations reading this. My son was preemie too, and it was a complicated birth – very bad experience due to doc negligence.

    They took him away from me pretty much right away (at least I got to hold him for a few seconds!) and kept me in the delivery room for about an hour afterwards (trouble delivering the ‘rest’ as well as a few stitches).

    Spent the next month in local hospital NICU then transfer to Children’s…oy. Broke my heart every time I had to leave him.

    Looks like Hannah’s doing FANTASTIC!!! Love the video.

  9. You're such a lovely Mom, Amber.

  10. I have to admit, I got a little weepy reading this post, Amber! Why do we beat ourselves up so? My husband and I do it all the time, even though we’re told repeatedly, virtually daily, how Ryan is so big and strong and cute and funny and handsome and a good eater and smart and energetic and loving. Yet, repeatedly, virtually daily, Jerry and I talk about how we feel so clueless and stupid and insensitive and harsh and impatient and uncreative and lazy. We spend so much time telling each other, “No you’re not, you’re doing fine, you’re a great parent!” But we’re too afraid to believe, so convinced that there’s something we’re doing wrong or that we made an ill-timed comment that will somehow scar Ryan’s development despite all the evidence to the contrary.
    The morning after my c-section, a nurse in the hospital scolded me for sleeping too long overnight and not waking up to request Ryan be brought to me from the nursery to feed. They gave him formula, and it was all downhill from there. I struggled with breastfeeding for about 5 weeks, crying at each feeding, watching for two of those weeks as he lost weight (we started calling him “Bug Legs” because his legs were so scrawny, even though he was 8 lb, 15 oz when he was born). When he started solids, I made all organic food from scratch for 3 months because I felt like I had to make up for my previous inadequacies. Now that he’s older, I’ll take him to a restaurant and feel guilty if I let him have chips instead of a fruit cup (though he’s a huge fruit lover). Why are we like this? Does it ever stop? I don’t know if it ever will, but it gets me through the day to read writing like yours, because it reminds me that we’re not alone.

  11. WOW! That post hit a chord with me!

    My first was almost one month early, not life threatening from a development point of view, but I too was completely unprepared! He came out battered and bruised from his journey, a bit jaundice and very skinny, but he had a good healthy scream and a good healthy kick.

    I came home from the hospital in shock from it all, and he turned out to be a “high-needs” baby as my doctor put it…. in other words if he was awake he was screaming most of the time, and he was 7 months old before he slept even 4 hours in a row!!!

    Emotionally I was ill-equipped. I thought I would just know what to do and that what I didn’t know I could look up in books…. what a fool I was and that truth slapped me so hard that it has taken me 12 years to figure it out.

    That little baby that rocked my world with his early arrival turned 12 last March, and it was only 2 months ago that I really figured out that he was turning our GREAT, even though I had no clue what to do. I just loved him the best I could and tried to lead by example, and tried to be firm but fair of what was expected….. all very very hard things to do for an ADHD kid that can be so frustrating that you want to strngle him and hug him at the same time!!!!

    But like I was saying, I figured it out, he is turning out just GREAT! And I couldn’t be prouder!

  12. oh ya, and like Laura, I always feel like I’m doing it wrong, or not enough…. its so much harder than I ever imagined it would be.

  13. I’m glad you’ve been able to let go of some of that weight. Being a mom, it’s never all gone, but at least the worry about being born early can be wiped away with one glimpse of that rock star girl. Love the picture with the wings.

  14. My husband calls it Mother Paranoia. We tend to worry about the health and well being of our children.

    She’s beautiful and is fine.

  15. This is a very happy post, and I’m happy for you and your family. I relate so well to your long(er) term worries, and I’m glad to know there is a time when one can look back and say “it’s all over”. My own premature daughter born 6wks earlier was not so lucky. She’s known hospitals, intensive care and all the rest, and we worry every day. Big hug to you and your healthy girl.

  16. When it’s your time to be born, you’re born. And when it’s your time to go, you go.

    It was simply Hannah’s time to say hello to the world, so she did. And there is definitely nothing wrong with her. She’s great!

  17. And now it’s getting a little dusty in here at work.

    Watching Hannah get taller by the second this summer, it was a lot of fun to look back at that little girl running in the park.

  18. Oh my, I had no idea we shared this in common! My Joshua and Noah were both premature, both intubated and rushed on ambulances down to NICUs in Boston, and both are healthy, happy, and HUGE now 🙂

    I do still shudder now and again when I think that if they were my age they may not have made it– medical advances these last 30something years have been astonishing I now realize!

    Also, I tend to think about the other mothers I met in the NICUs, the ones who had much longer stays than we did, and the ones who are there tonight, and I feel very, very blessed!

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  1. […] that the occasional panic attack is par for the course. And that in spite of my irrational fears, my kids are just fine. Really. AKPC_IDS += “4926,”; Love this? Share […]

  2. […] day of Hannah’s birth without some wistfulness, I have finally shed the extreme worry. I have made my peace and I know that we will be OK in spite of it, or possibly even because of it. We have come through […]

  3. […] I’m on vacation this week, so today I’m running a post that I originally published a couple of years ago. You can read the original here: Making my Peace. […]

  4. […] her first four birthdays, remembering the difficulties surrounding her arrival. It took me years to make my peace. And yet, as I reflect on my births themselves, hers was the one I found easier to accept for what […]

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