I'm already sensitive to begin with, but this month has put me over the edge. I don't know if it's the time change or my post-hysterectomy hormones, but I've found myself crying over the smallest things. I'm not unhappy or the least bit depressed, but the fall turning into winter has left me feeling nostalgic. Like a wind that blows through the trees and rustles the leaves from their slumber, so have feelings of longing moved through me.
An experience with prematurity can do that to a person. In speaking with other parents of premature babies – some even born over 20 years ago – you don’t ever get to a place where you can lock it up and put it away. It’s like a chapter in a book: that chapter may be over, you may have turned the page, but it’s still a part of the book. I carry that pocket of weight with me every day. However, I don’t carry it with regret or resentment. I carry it to remind me of how far we’ve come as a family; to have something to center my hopes on. I carry it with me so I can share it with others. So I can share it with you.
That’s why I believe World Prematurity Day is paramount in our lives – it gives us a day to begin the healing process or continue it. It gives us a day to acknowledge and reflect on our experiences with prematurity, however different and varied, and grow our hope from within. For me, I always needed to understand why God had called me to this place. I knew the medical “why,” but I needed to know the spiritual "why." I had questions and yearned for answers. While I am still learning, what I have found is that I am able to lift myself to a place of healing when I don’t restrict my heart. So here I am, pouring out the words of my heart.
Speaking directly to the parents of premature babies, what I want for you more than anything this World Prematurity Day is to seek hope. Take refuge in it.
For those of you in the NICU – do the little things because they are the most important. Pump for your little ones if you can, feed them, kangaroo them, bathe them, read to them and speak of the hopes you have for them. Be grateful for the nurses and doctors that are caring for your babies around the clock when you are unable to be there. No matter the outcome, your child is a miracle. A precious gift.
For those of you parenting a NICU grad – enjoy the little things because they are the most important. Be so thankful for the eager mind that asks a thousand questions, the tiny hands that make a mess of your just cleaned home and the smile that can make you give in to a few more minutes at the park or that toy they don’t need. Maybe others don’t understand why you celebrate every pound gained or freak out when they have a simple cold, but they don’t have to – it’s not their journey to make sense of. It’s yours … enjoy it!
For those of you who have suffered a loss – no matter how brief a life, your baby’s legacy is important. You are important. You are not just a mother, but a mother to a child with wings. You are not just a father, but a father to a baby that sleeps in heaven. It’s okay to submit to the grief, but know that you do not grieve alone. I see you and I am lifting you up in solemn prayer.
So maybe my emotions haven't been coming from a wistful place ... maybe it was these words pressing on my heart; words I needed to reflect on and release. If I can encourage you in any way on World Prematurity Day - it would be to make the day personal. Whatever that means to you, do it, because that's what makes people stand up and take notice! That's what raises awareness and inspires! It's time for us to heal from the inside out - time for us to lie down with peace. That is my hope for myself, my family and for you.