The stresses of being a preemie parent is a tough topic! Generally our lifestyles in today’s society are stressful and put us under a lot of pressure. Am I one of the top performers at work? Are my clothes fashionable enough? Do I even suit them? Is my home nicer than my neighbour’s? Am I getting this parenting gig right?

I can tell you now a parent of a premature baby only cares about the answer to the last question on that list.

Work was not something I thought about or cared about, my clothes and shoes probably didn’t go together in fashionable combinations, my hair was usually clean but no other effort was made, I couldn’t have cared less about make-up so none was ever put on and my home was clean and tidy but anything that wasn’t urgent didn’t get done. These were daily things I could not handle at the time so I simply didn’t.

Me cuddling my little premature baby boy
Me cuddling my little premature baby boy

Just a few of my preemie parent stresses

The birth of my son, his 73 day stay on the neonatal unit, his discharge and later his home resuscitation which led to a blue-lighted trip back to the children’s ward after only being home for 4 days were all stressful. It hasn’t stopped there either, we have had multiple trips back to the hospital for emergencies as well as routine check-ups.

This doesn’t even begin to cover the daily stresses such as have I given my son all the right medication at the right time? When he was sick do I think he kept his medicine down or do I need to give it to him again? Is he breathing in his sleep? When did I last check his heart rate?

Everybody manages stress differently. Some thrive on it and others just have to concentrate on one day at a time. Some people swing from one to the other depending on the kind of situation or day they are having. For me my parents and husband were an amazing support. I was forgetful, easily distracted, easily upset (prior to my son being born, according to my husband, I was an ice queen!) and it didn’t take much for me to feel I was going over the edge with stress.

Upset woman. Photography credit: Kat J
Upset woman. Photography credit: Kat J

Who I relied on

At the time I heavily relied on family and friends to just be there. They didn’t let me down. They were checking in to see how my son, Neil, was doing but not pestering me or expecting a response.

My mum and dad were amazing! Their support was incredible I wouldn’t ever be able to thank them enough. They regularly took me to the hospital, came at visiting times to see Neil armed with those all important drinks and snacks for me, they shopped for things Neil needed, and did online research for things I simply couldn’t find the strength to focus on properly at the time.

My husband was another strong and stable person I depended on at the time. Don’t get me wrong he had his down days, and days where he struggled to see a positive. He looked after me though, kept the house in order, cooked meals and walked the dog. Having him to talk to was also key to me being able to deal with some of the stresses thrown at us. 

Sending a text. Photography credit: Priscilla Du Preez
Sending a text. Photography credit: Priscilla Du Preez

If you want to support a preemie parent send a quick text asking how they and their baby are. Or see if there is something you can do for them that takes a bit of the stress out of their day. The smallest gesture will feel huge to a preemie parent and they will be so grateful. I even had work colleagues I rarely speak to reach out to me and their support and kind words meant a lot.