Having premature babies is a whole different ball game than having a full-term baby. Or babies, in my case.
Though I’ve never had a full-term baby and my only babies were born at 28 weeks, I do know a large number of mothers who have had full-term babies, and their babies reach normal milestones in the appropriate time, get chunky fast, and generally have no health problems. Premature babies can very well go home with oxygen or apnea monitors, sometimes even oxygen concentrators and c-pap machines, some may need to have g-tubes put in for feeding, among other concerning things.
The hardest thing to date was not being able to hold my girls when they were born. They were born at 28 weeks and it took us 5 days until they got to lay on our chests, and even then we only held them for 30 minutes because they were so fragile. Some mothers go even longer without holding their preemies, even a month or two. Going home to a baby-ready house with no babies was also crushing. Seeing their car seats, their nursery, diapers, clothes, and remembering they had to stay at the hospital when I got released was very depressing. I used to describe it as having a square in the middle of my chest, and that little square would squeeze the breath out of me every time I thought about it. Luckily, our girls came home after just short of two months. I cannot imagine having them stay for any longer, as some mothers have had their preemies stay for months and months, with seemingly no end in sight. My heart goes out to them.
Once they do come home, it’s crazy. You’ll be (rightfully) overprotective and be criticized for it, you’ll obsess over making sure they’re still breathing as any new mom will, you’ll want to make sure you tend to their every cry, and watch them at every moment. You might not even fully trust others with them at first, even loved ones. Your emotions (and hormones) will be in a craze. Depending on how early they were born and what health conditions they have, it’s doctor’s appointments after doctor’s appointments. Weigh-ins, measurements, eye exams, developmental appointments, cardiologist visits – it seems like it’ll never end. Some, like our girls, have simpler appointments. Depending on how behind the babies are on their skills, Early Intervention, weekly physical therapy, and frequent developmental appointments are needed. Some will need medication for anything ranging from Vitamin D and iron to heart medication. It’s a lot to take in, on top of the emotions of finally having your babies home.
You will compare your babies’ skills with other babies’, and sometimes it’ll get to you. As illogical as it is, it’s also inevitable. I recently caught myself doing it, got upset over it, and then realized what had just happened. The sweet preemie girls I was looking at were already sitting up really well and supporting themselves, working on crawling at 8 months. My girls just turned 8 months and we’re still working on them sitting up supported, and they don’t lift their chests up high enough to where they could scoot around, much less attempt to crawl. I felt so angry at myself, feeling like an inadequate mom, who works full-time out of necessity and can now only spend 2 whole days with them per week. But then I remembered that I didn’t take into account that those adorable girls were born at 32 weeks, a whole 4 weeks ahead of my girls. Then I felt like a kid who got caught with their hand in the cookie jar. I probably even turned red.
I am very confident in my girls and their skills, though Lydia is a lazy baby. I know they’ll be caught up by the age of 2, and I know I need to be patient with them and kind to myself. There’s no blame to go around, as much as I’d love to place it on my own body for evicting them too soon. If anything, this preemie effect will only make them more determined to explore and do things as they grow, and that it’ll only serve as a reminder to myself that I have two little ass-kickers who can do anything and everything, and I can’t wait to watch them grow.