Heidi Montgomery was one of the first moms to share her Preemie Mom Story on the blog. Her daughter, Elsie, was born at 26 weeks and spent 10 weeks in NICU.
This week, her healthy, happy, bubbly miracle turned five years old. Heidi shared this beautiful reflection of how far they’ve come and yet the story of Elsie’s early beginnings is never out of mind.
And then you were five
By Heidi Montgomery
This is the time of year where I pull up old Facebook memories of the days after my baby was born. It’s different from the normal person’s new baby memories, though.
It’s not the first outfits, the first bath, the sweaty, tired from pushing mama photos. It’s something entirely different when your baby is born 14 weeks earlier than they are supposed to be.
I think about my husband’s first report to me after waking up from surgery. “She’s great, Mrs.”-which translated to me at the time as “Don’t be afraid.”
I think about how I didn’t get to hold her for her first five days.
And how at 2 pounds, how really truly tiny she was.
And my nurse friend, Jill, kindly telling me that it might hurt a little leaving the hospital without her.
And how I’d think of her while pumping in the middle of the night, praying she was okay and that the people caring for her could keep tricking her body into thinking she was still in my womb so she could grow and grow.
And how things on her body like nipples and butt cheeks weren’t quite there yet even though she had this swath of dark fuzzy hair under her CPAP mask. (A weird memory, yes. You get hair before you get nipples?)
All the while, I felt hemmed in and protected. My brain wouldn’t let me think too far past the moment we were in. Each week bringing new milestones and passed tests. And physically feeling my very cells absorbing the prayers and good thoughts that our friends and family (and many people who we didn’t even know) were sending.
I remember thinking I should be feeling so much more wrung out, (I still was… pumping and NICU back and forth is no joke.) and instead I felt full and confident, like a sponge that had sucked up all the water it could hold and was holding it in my heart so I could get this job done.
I know this is not normal. So many NICU families know nothing other than uncertainty, heartbreak and pain. My story is a gift given to me that I can never even think about repaying.
And now we are five years out of it. Five years into it. And she’s hilarious and sweet and smart and wiggly and I cannot get enough of her.
I still bury my head into her now full head of thick curly brown hair and thank God for her. I would always tell people she was born early because she’s here on a mission. I’m here to help her with that.
She’s going into kindergarten and we are saying goodbye to these baby-toddler-preschool days of life, and headed straight toward full-on childhood.
There are many NICU mamas that aren’t as lucky as we have been. To have such an early baby without any lasting health issues. There are mamas sitting in NICUs right now thinking all the thoughts and fearing all the fears and praying all the prayers and going through it like we did.
I want to hug them all and tell them to hold on. Take it as it comes. Hang on tight to hope and believe that God has a plan. And don’t Google anything. (Really, don’t.)
Then one day, you’ll look back on these early memories and you’ll remember how brave you were. And how you were meant to tell a different kind of story.