Thursday, March 27, 2014

Comparison: The Thief of Joy

The story of two mom’s and their struggles with Comparison

“I remember waking up in the recovery room after my traumatic labor (but that’s an entirely long and different story) and wondering what was happening with my son. I knew I was having a boy and I knew things weren’t going to be what I imagined the moment they told me I was in labor at 24 weeks gestation. I remembering being wheeled in to the NICU and seeing my son and all the other babies in there (each room had about 12 babies). I was flooded with emotions seeing my son so tiny and bruised from the delivery hooked to what seemed like a million wires and tubes. I remember thinking, am I doing the right thing, will he survive, and if he does will he live a meaningful life? I remember being wheeled to my room crying and wishing this was all a dream. 

The first couple days of our 144+ NICU stay were tough, I remember seeing mothers holding their babies and babies that seemed so much better off than my son. I found that looking at all the baby’s incubators and tags that said their birth weight and gestational age on them made me start comparing my child to these other babies. I was told on numerous occasions not to look at the other children and compare because each NICU journey was different. For the first 2 months of our NICU journey I found myself comparing my son to many children, but there was one in particular that I compared him to, and it was almost as if I held my son to this standard that he better be doing as well as this child was. I met this child’s mother in the NICU waiting room and found that just like my son her son was born at 24 weeks gestation as well, only two week prior to mine. So when I saw her holding her son the first time I met her which was day 2 of my NICU stay I was falsely led to believe I would be holding my son by two weeks. I was sadly mistaken; I didn’t get to hold my son for over 3 weeks. My son ended up having so many complications where her son seemed to be excelling at everything. 

This was devastating and heartbreaking to me. I found that instead of being happy for the milestones my son was reaching I was holding him to some sort of standard I created based on my (now) friend’s son. I watched mother’s including my friend take their children home before I got to take my son home. This made me depressed and actually robbed me of the joyous milestones my son was making; such as breathing on his own, suck/swallow/breathing for feeding, going through the night without an apnea spell etc. I was guilty of what most parents are, comparing our children to others. It wasn’t until he was moved into what they call the growing room (less critical/critical care) that I realized how bad I was. 

Days and then weeks went by and all the babies around me were going home. On my last week there his nurse finally told me, listen you know he is going to come home with you and this is something you didn’t know months ago, you need to stop comparing him to other children and be content and happy that he is coming home, and you need to know that he will do everything on his own time. This really helped me as my son came home and I realized that other kids were and probably will always be ahead of him in development. He is now 4 and is a happy child, he may be way behind his peers but he is perfect to me. I no longer compare him to my friend’s children and I am much happier this way. Comparing your child to other children no matter what their issues are is truly the thief of joy. “
Written by: Heather Lonardo

My daughter started out as one of a pair. I lost her brother at 14 weeks. Truthfully, his loss was probably the only reason why I got to keep one instead of losing both later. But this doesn’t stop me from feeling the green monster of jealousy every time I see or hear about twins. I think about how I could have managed it. I have plenty of love to give two babies. Why couldn’t I keep them both? 

And then I realize that my green-eyed monster is getting in my line of sight to my daughter and I have to stop, breathe and give myself a reality check.

Hope was born at 26 weeks and 5 days. Roughly 13 weeks early. She spent 99 very long days in the NICU at Women’s Hospital. I watched her attached to tubes and wires and undergo more tests and pain than any baby should ever have to be subjected to. I knew from the beginning that we would be there for a long time and I made myself available as a support person for other parents in our unit.  I tried to be uplifting and positive. But when they were only there for a few weeks or even a few days, I got discouraged. They were so lucky! I hadn’t done anything wrong as a person to be dealt this hand and my child certainly didn’t deserve not to be able to go home with her loving mother and father.

I saw moms and dads holding their children with confidence.  Hope was over a week old when I finally got to hold her, anxious every second of tearing free a wire or tube that was trying to save her life.  When we went home, there was oxygen tanks to contend with and a heart monitor. I carried around over 20 pounds of stuff when all I wanted was to snuggle with my baby. Other families got to take their baby out shopping and visit family. We came home right before RSV season when Hope couldn’t be exposed to any risk of sickness. The only place she’s ever been in the car was a doctor’s appointment. 

Hope will be 1 year old in just a few months.  Most of my friends have never met her in person. 

When I get down and discouraged over the fact that my pregnancy, birth and baby’s first year was nothing like I envisioned it, I just look at my child’s face, her healthy glow, her toothy smile, all that drool and the fact that she is here at all and I have to thank God that I have her. Our story may be nothing like the next person’s but it’s ours and I have a new perspective on luck and happiness because of it.

Written By: Heather Hunter

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