Reflections of a mom with 'Preemie PTSD'

It's not in any pregnancy book and you won't hear it from a doctor, but 32 weeks, this week, is a monumental milestone in my pregnancy.

Beau's first day in the NICU, born 7 weeks early.

Beau's first day in the NICU, born 7 weeks early.

This is the week my water broke during my first pregnancy, in the middle of the night, while I was in bed sleeping.  It was a "perfect pregnancy" until that point.  I didn't have gestational diabetes, preeclampsia or blot clots.  I was active.  My weight was just right.

Then, for reasons still unknown, all hell broke loose.  I would spend 9 days in the hospital hooked up to monitors and IVs, receiving magnesium sulfate to slow every muscle in the body and allow the doctors to administer corticosteroids to speed up baby's lung development.  I would fight contractions for a full week.  I was covered in bruises from the IVs.  I used a bed pan.  I didn't shower.  The highlight was Christmas Day, when I put on makeup and my neighbor Tina brought us a stuffed chicken and cheesy grits.

Christmas dinner with Joe and mom in the hospital

Christmas dinner with Joe and mom in the hospital

At 33 weeks and after 38 hours of labor, Beauregard Arthur Mason was born.

Baby Beau was whisked to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, where our second battle would begin.  Our 3 lb 15 oz boy would fight for 5 weeks to breath, hold his temperature, learn to eat and grow.  In the early days, holding down 1 ml of breast milk through a feeding tube was an accomplishment.  In case you're wondering, that's 1/5th of a teaspoon.

Beau with his leads and feeding tube in the NICU. The nose tube was a big improvement over the one they originally had in his mouth.  At this point, he was also off of oxygen and no longer required an IV.

Beau with his leads and feeding tube in the NICU. The nose tube was a big improvement over the one they originally had in his mouth.  At this point, he was also off of oxygen and no longer required an IV.

I treated it like a full time job.  I'd wake up every three hours, around the clock, to pump and keep up my breast milk supply.  I'd spend 8 hours a day, 7 days a week at the NICU.  And to perfectly honest, I cried very little.  We were in crisis mode.  We did what we needed to help baby Beau survive and thrive.  The single hardest part was leaving the hospital on NYE and going home without my baby.

Three years and one healthy toddler later, I cry.  You might not guess it looking at our happy family, but I cry a lot. 

Christmas 2016 family photo, roughly 3 months pregnant

Christmas 2016 family photo, roughly 3 months pregnant

Our second boy isn't due until June 3rd, but the panic, stress and fear set in much sooner.  Countless people have tried to comfort me by pointing out that Beau turned out fine.  However, that's not always the case.  Some preemies have cerebral palsy, mental retardation, visual and hearing impairments, learning difficulties, behavioral, social-emotional, poor health and growth, among a host of other problems.  Other preemies die.

Yes, Beau turned out fine, but there's no guarantee this baby will be so lucky.

Because Beau was premature, my second pregnancy is automatically considered high risk and because we have no idea why he was born premature, there's almost nothing I can do to prevent it.  It's like knowing I'm going to be in a car crash.  I just don't know when it's going to happen or how bad it's going to be.  It could be a fender-bender.  It could be deadly.

I asked my doctor if it's normal for moms of a preemie to feel this way and she said, absolutely.  Like anyone who's experienced a traumatic event, I'm now experiencing 'Preemie PTSD.'

One of Beau's many days in the isolette.  At this point, he still had an IV, feeding tube, leads and temperature control.

One of Beau's many days in the isolette.  At this point, he still had an IV, feeding tube, leads and temperature control.

We've taken what few precautions we can.  I get a shot of progesterone in my butt every week.  It's painful and studies show it only reduces the likelihood of a second preterm birth by 30%, but anything helps.  My doctors also pulled me from work after I was hospitalized twice with early contractions.  Now, I sit at home all day, every day, thinking and worrying and stressing.  It's miserable, but it's helped.  My contractions have slowed considerably and I feel good.

7 1/2 months pregnant, enjoying a picnic with friends and family at City Park

7 1/2 months pregnant, enjoying a picnic with friends and family at City Park

Beyond that, we wait.  We wait and we pray.  We ask that you do the same, not just for us, but for all the women who know first-hand that fertility, pregnancy and childbirth are not easy.  Our story is not unique.

Moms should be able to look back on photos of their children as newborns with happiness and warmth.  I look back with anger and sadness.  I'm ashamed to admit I still feel bitterness and jealously towards moms who have healthy, full-term babies.  They say time heals all wounds and I'm sure that'll be the case.  Until then, I'm just praying for every day I can keep this baby growing inside the womb. 

At the very least, a little longer than his brother.

Beau as preemie holding my hand