" I sit and listen to parents and grandparents describe the texture of their days as they sit next to their tiny babies, willing them to be okay. I recognize the same look in the faces of mother after mother, the fear, the not-knowing, the worry, the pure exhaustion." - Ready For Air: A Journey Through Premature Motherhood by Kate Hopper.
This look Kate Hopper describes, I have worn many times. And so have the mothers I share space with -- at hospitals, therapy appointments and doctor's offices, women that like Kate, unexpectedly find they are dealing with their own illness, a premature birth and life in the NICU; a "boot camp" that teaches parents how to behave, hope and how to survive, prepared and strong to parent children with significant medical issues and special needs.
Reading Kate's story, I spent a weekend immersed feeling her pain, her fear, and frustration. I was there in the hospital with her, focused on the monitors and hoping for her happy outcome while reliving my own experiences.
Like Kate, my world changed after a scheduled OB follow-up when I was pregnant with my first daughter, Olivia. I entered the doctor's office that day exhilarated, still in obsessive-like gushing love with my unborn baby and my honeymoon-like newly married life.
I left that appointment a mother, my hands shaking and protectively clutching the curve of my stomach, my heart stretched by truth and risks and fears with the doctor's diagnosis of a dangerously complete placenta previa. Like Kate, my diagnosis forced me to slow down and to choose motherhood over my career.
A month later, I woke up bleeding. The love my husband and I shared for our first daughter began with warnings and worry while she grew in my womb. Frantic, my husband drove us to the hospital, then watched a helicopter carry us away to a three-week hospital stay.
Each morning on his way to work, he arrived with a decaf Starbucks latte, helped me shower and then kissed me goodbye. He ended his day by my side again, feeding my food cravings and surveying my new-found patience. The IV medicines worked, not only preventing more premature labor but also advancing the development of Olivia's lungs -- so that finally at 33.5 weeks she was safely delivered by cesarean section. I brought my fragile 4 pound baby home a week later, struggling to feed her, nurse her to better health and help her grow. We were lucky, we got to skip the NICU boot camp. We learned that medicine is not an exact science, how to advocate and how worry and love help can help keep a baby safe.
Kate writes honestly, sometimes shockingly about her journey. The good, where she finds hope and encouragement along the way. And the bad, her life threatening illness with preeclampsia, the vomit, the heartbreaking pain, and the fear. She bravely tells it all with raw emotion. She fights for her own strength, her baby, and for her daughter's recovery.
The awkward balance of new parenting can upset any marriage, and when there is illness, and stress, and sometimes special needs there can be distance, fear and grieving too. Kate is thinking and worrying about this, revealing even the intimacy of resentment as she lays in the hospital while her husband is working out-of-town. She shares " Later I will ask him how he felt when I called and he will tell me he wasn't worried..He went into "dealing" mode and he just kept going not thinking about what was happening to me."
Kate Hopper believes every mother's story matters, that we find strength by sharing our story and writing our words. She herself, a writing teacher at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, advocates for Mothers to share their stories .In her first book " Use Your Words, A Writing Guide For Mothers" she writes about the day she was discharged from the hospital after her daughter was born. How she stood sobbing over her daughter, when a nurse told her .. " This is your birth story and you need to accept it." Kate goes on to explain the only way she was able to accept her birth story and the trauma associated was to write. " And in writing our story I was able to let go of it, so I could focus on the important work of mothering my daughter."
For me, I know no other love like the obsessive, unconditional vulnerable love a mother has for her child; it can be both strengthening and devastating.
For mothers, our "birth story" is that common thread, like Kate Hopper describes, designs not only the textures of our days, but the texture of our lives.
This post originally appeared at www.SpecialNeedsMom.com