My daughter Hannah was born exactly 6 weeks before her due date. It was rather abrupt and surprising. My water broke at around 5am and she was born at 4pm. It was a Saturday and I was supposed to supervise a Brownie sleepover that evening. I was supposed to go to work on Monday. I found myself sitting in the hospital in early labour making a lot of phone calls.
“I’m sorry, but I won’t be able to make it to your engagement because I’m having a baby. I apologize for the inconvenience.”
In the hospital assessment room in early labour, feeling rather shocked
Having a preterm baby left me reeling. We were completely unprepared, we didn’t even have a single diaper in our house. It’s true that you don’t need at least half of the baby gear they say you do, but there are some essential items. My husband rushed all over town acquiring goods and people brought bags full of baby supplies like hairbrushes and nail clippers as gifts to my hospital bed. There was a lot of scrambling.
Amidst the rush and panic there was wee baby Hannah. Newborns are tiny. Preterm infants are really tiny. Hannah was ‘big’ at 5lbs 4oz, but in the days following her birth she dropped to 4lbs 14oz. I look at those photos and she’s so delicate and bird-like. I was very worried for her. I wondered how such a frail little being could thrive. It added to the panic. Panicked preparations, and panic over how my baby would do.
4 day old Hannah drinking pumped breast milk in the NICU
Hannah thrived. She really, really did. By the time she was a few months old she bore no markers of her early arrival. She was an averaged sized baby who developed right on schedule. But I couldn’t really see that. I was scarred by those early weeks of Hannah’s life when she was tiny and wasn’t nursing well and I didn’t get any sleep. So scarred that I couldn’t see just how well my daughter was doing.
I carried the baggage from that time around with me for years. When I was at a local farm and saw a sheep give birth I cried. No one took that lamb away to the NICU for assessment. On each of Hannah’s birthdays I cried. She wasn’t supposed to be born that day. When Hannah’s Montessori teacher suggested that Hannah would advance more rapidly if we sent her full-time I was afraid. Afraid that she would never do as well as other children because of her beginning.
Hannah the rock star fairy, clearly thriving at almost 3 years old
(For the record, Hannah is very bright and has done much better in a different school. That particularly learning environment just wasn’t a great fit for her.)
The other day Hannah and I were looking at our YouTube videos. These are our family movies, taken over the past 6 years. Most of them feature Hannah. I was watching her play in the park with me when she was 2 1/2 and it hit me. She was just fine. She is just fine. I have been carrying around this ball of worry for almost 4 1/2 years and I didn’t need to. In that moment, I felt a weight lift off my shoulders.
Hannah at 2 1/2 playing in the park with me
We’re going to be OK, Hannah and I. She’s going to be fine and I’m going to be fine and I don’t have to worry about it anymore. Thank heavens, I don’t have to worry about it anymore.