Just like that, I have a one-year-old...

I honestly feel this has been the fastest year of my life, but why should it have

gone slow? My pregnancy was fast forwarded to the end three months early, so why

should the rest of the first year of my daughter’s life have been any different? Some

say the first birthday party is meant for the parents because they have kept their

child alive for their first year of life, but if you have a preemie, that statement

couldn’t be further from the truth.

The one-year birthday party is a celebration of the fight your preemie fought

and proved victorious. These babies came into the world tiny with some being

smaller than others. They fight for every breath since they can forget to take a

breath every now and again. They fight to grow. They fight through obstacles that

are put in front of their tiny bodies. They are poked and prodded everyday multiple

times a day by several people. They have the tiniest breathing apparatuses, feeding

tubes, diapers, and IVs you will ever see, but are necessary for survival. Poppy’s fight

in the NICU was 51 days, which is short in comparison to others that we have met

along the way.

This fight doesn’t end there. For the parents, if you are not sent home with a

machine that monitors breathing, this is the first time you will not hear beeps in

your child’s room so you are constantly questioning whether or not they are

breathing. You also do not have a syringe pumping food into your child so you know

exactly how much they are eating at each meal so you will have to go to weight

checks with the pediatrician regularly to make sure they are gaining weight

appropriately. You have to do this all on your own; you have to help your preemie

continue their fight once you are at home.

A weight check is only one of what seems like a million doctor and therapy

appointments with several different specialists. You feel like you have to add a

separate calendar to your phone or purchase another wall calendar or planner just

to keep up with all of these appointments. But as the year presses on, the visits

become less frequent or can even stop because your preemie has rocked what they

are supposed to do and are hitting milestones so they don’t have to be seen

anymore, as often, or for a few years.

Speaking of milestones, Help Me Grow comes to your house for an evaluation.

Yes more appointments to add to the calendar, but they are a phenomenal group

doing great things for our preemies. They give you a wheel of milestones that you

are supposed to turn each month or few months to show what your baby should be

doing at that point. Do you turn based on birth age or corrected age? Do you feel bad

if they aren’t where they should be based on their birth age? Wait two ages? Yes as a

preemie parent you have to constantly say both because you feel you have to remind

others that your baby came early and yes they are not acting like the typical 6 month

old because corrected they are only 3 months old. This can be a lot of pressure to a

preemie parent, but as you spin that wheel and see that your baby is actually doing

these things appropriately at both ages, it is a sense of accomplishment for both of

you.

This fight keeps going throughout the year. You fight to keep your preemie

safe and healthy and away from as many germs as humanly possible. This includes

missing important family events because someone attending is already sick and you

know your preemie can’t be around that. This can lead to someone being

disappointed in you for not showing up if they don’t fully understand how at risk

your preemie can be. For some they stay isolated in their house with their preemie

or preemies the first year because that is the safest place for them to be or because

they were coming home during RSV season. You question whom you have over to

visit to make sure they aren’t bringing any nasty bug in with them. All of this is

necessary if you have a preemie even if you feel isolated from the rest of the world.

Through the year try your best to make your NICU stay the only hospital stay

your preemie has in their first year of life, but unfortunately even if you are as

careful as possible, things can happen. We made it two days shy of 11 months

without an issue, but unfortunately on New Year’s Day, we were in the ER with

Poppy because of pneumonia. Luckily we brought her in at the first signs of

something being wrong so we caught it early enough that there was no hospital stay

involved, but seeing your child be that miserable and then being held down for tests

and x-rays when all they want is to be held by their parents is the hardest thing

post-NICU I have ever seen or been through. She fought through that illness, got

better, only for her to get the worst cold ever a few days after that. This made it

seem like she just couldn’t catch a break. We remembered what a fighter she is

though, and she did indeed get better.

So now it is time to plan that first birthday party. Again you hear people say

this is a party for the parents really. Seriously? This is a party to celebrate

everything your preemie has accomplished from the time they were born to this

point. It is to celebrate the fact that they lived, they survived, and now they are

thriving. It is to celebrate all milestones they have hit in this first year whether it is

at birth age or corrected age. It is to celebrate the miracle that they are. They did

this and they deserve to be recognized for all of these accomplishments and to be

celebrated. Yes, parents have a part in this, but you want to celebrate this first year

because your preemie truly is amazing! So eat cake, get the fancy first birthday outfit

for your preemie, laugh and take pictures, and enjoy yourself! This party is well

deserved. This was indeed the fastest year of my life, but stopping and celebrating

how great my life is now with Poppy in it and everything she has accomplished in

her first year with those that we love was a fantastic day. Now here is to the start of

year two and seeing what this has in store for us and for our amazing preemie.