Parenting After the NICU

Those early times in the NICU had a positive impact both as a person and a parent.

By Rene Milner

Those early times in the NICU had a positive impact on me both as a person and a parent. Before becoming a parent for the first time, I was a very "shy" and reserved person. Having preemies made me ask questions that I wouldn't have asked before. I was naive about so much of the medical terms to begin with that I learned quickly that if I really wanted to know I had to ask for explanations. They weren't always offered.

I even once refused to let them do a procedure on Alicia. This was after discharge. She became quite ill again around 6 months of age and was back in the ICU of a different hospital for a week or so. She was due for her eye exam for the ROP at this time. This was a teaching hospital so lots of "trainees" came by with the ophthalmologist. I happened to come in just after he examined her and he said the students were to do the same. I had seen this exam done enough on the girls that I flatly told him NO!! Her eyes were fine according to him so there was no reason for them to look anyway. They would not have seen any problems and to me problems were what they needed to learn. The person I was the year before this would have just sat and meekly watched them do this.

Now every accomplishment my children have means even more to me. When you are told they will struggle in school as much as we were it just amazes (and delights) me when they bring home those wonderful grades.

As with medical procedures and doctors, I deal with the schools head on also. I think that I would have become so involved in the volunteering and the PTO/PTA of their schools if I hadn't learned to become so involved early on. In first grade when one of the girls was struggling with depression I was a bit put out with her teacher and went to them about it. Things got better for her and that teacher was the school counselor herself the next year!

I still have a small fear that the girls will "not meet standards" of others at times. But how much of this is due to the preemie issue is hard to say. I imagine every parent feels that way don't they? I often wonder how I would feel about their grades had they been full term? I know I would expect my kids to do well in school since I did and my husband was capable of it.

I am feeling sadness as the teenage years hit and one of my girls in particular is drawing away quicker from me. She is the normal sullen, moody teen but it breaks my heart some days! One day she is happy to be with us and laughing. Then another she may prefer to read or talk to friends and stomps around if she is forced to spend time with family!! Boy do I remember the days I did that, so I try to be patient.

That is the other thing that I think the preemie status has done for me. It has made me try even harder to remember feelings I had on issues as a child and teen. I even started a journal a few years ago to try and write down some of the feelings I had so that as my girls became teens they could read it and see they what they felt was not new.