Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Ceremonial Figurehead ...

It took a village, and at the beginning I seemed to be its monarch: a ceremonial figurehead of ostensible importance, but with little ability to effect change. I may have been the Mother, but my role was mostly symbolic and my job description unclear. -Alexa Stevenson, Half Baked

This is exactly what is like to be the mother of a premature infant during those first few days and weeks after birth. It was heart-wrenching to have initially lost, like so many other things that came along with a NICU stay, all the traditional roles and responsibilities that go with producing a baby.

Doctors and nurses were the first people to lay eyes on our daughter; to hold her and swaddle her, even to bathe and diaper her. IVs filled with TPN (nutrients and fats) nourished her body instead of breastmilk. A heat lamp, instead of my body kept her warm. A little fabric nest, instead of my stomach or arms, kept her from flailing around. Her CPAP machine helped keep her lungs inflated, instead of developing them in-utero.

For all intents and purposes, I was replaced by a series of strangers and machines- at least for the first 3 or 4 days after Beatrice Kate was born. In talking to other NICU-moms, we all seem to feel the same way. We were mothers only by title for a while.

Luckily for us, March of Dimes was there to provide comfort and support when I needed it most. On Day 2, a MOD representative stopped by Beatrice Kate's bedside to offer a 'comfort pack' and kind words. At the time, I remember being initially annoyed that this lady was asking about me. Couldn't she see the tiny baby hooked to the machines I was worried-sick about? Then, I opened the bag she had given me and I felt incredibly grateful. Inside was a daily journal, a gram-to-pound conversion chart (which we wore out), Kleenex, pens and a Preemie FAQ.

She then proceeded to tell me about her son; born under two pounds, a true micro-preemie, who is now a healthy adult. It brought so much hope to me to hear how other ex-preemies thrived as they grew up. I lived for stories of people saying things like, "I used to be a preemie." or "My football playing brother only weighed one pound at birth."

The MOD rep came by every few days to see Bea's progress and check on my well-being. It was like having a second, local mom for our stay at UNC. I'm sure this lady doesn't even remember our encounters- but I'll never forget them.

It's important for you to know where the funds from March of Babies will be going after the walk. While a large portion of the money raised will continue to fund research, education and advocacy programs, some of the money will also will be used to bring comfort and information to families, just like ours, with a baby in newborn intensive care.

It's another reason why contributing to our March for Babies team is so personal to us. So, please consider donating- you could be helping another "Raleigh Collins" family somewhere out there!

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