Heather Miller and her husband, Brandon, had always planned to both adopt children in need and have biological children. Years of fertility issues and a miscarriage led them to begin adoption. Though Heather had the pleasure of raising four adopted children, nothing prepared her to become a preemie mom when her biological son, Mattox, arrived early at 36 weeks.
Heather’s story is a great reminder of how our very different preemie mom experiences have so much in common. Mattox’s stay in NICU was a swift eight days, but they were the longest days Heather had ever experienced. She did not get to take her baby home, was wrecked with the guilt of balancing children at home with a fragile newborn in the hospital and relied on the kindness of friends and family to help her through the tough times. Who can relate?
Get to know Heather’s story.
Meeting her preemie
What were the circumstances surrounding Mattox’s premature birth?
We were surprised and thrilled to be pregnant after 14 years of fertility issues. Because I also had a miscarriage eight years ago at 13 weeks, we weren’t sure we’d ever have a biological child. God’s plan is always perfect yet not usually the way we would do it thankfully.
Once I became pregnant, I had intense gestational diabetes and developed preeclampsia at 36 weeks. Mattox was born with low blood sugar and respiratory difficulties.
What was the most difficult part of having a baby born premature?
Not being able to see Mattox right away was horrible. However, we were so blessed with a feature at our hospital that had a video camera on our baby in the NICU and we could see him on the TV in my room on another floor. That was quite a huge blessing. That way we could see anyone who handled him and what they were doing to him.
How did you balance having a child at home and Mattox in NICU?
This was probably the second hardest thing to manage. I have four older children at home: Angel, age 14, Tommy, age 10, Andersen age 6 and Lincoln, age 4. I stayed at the hospital for four days and I didn’t see the four older kids those days. Then I went home the last four days.
I felt insanely guilty for not being at the hospital with Mattox when I was home. I cannot explain how many tears were shed each night I stayed away from the hospital. Tears came whether I wanted them to or not. My throat hurt deeply from sobbing and not understanding how to be two places at once. Each morning we jumped out of bed, sent the kids off to school or to grandma’s and raced back up to the NICU. We stayed as long as we possibly could each day up with Mattox.
A new normal
What kinds of things did you do to feel more like a “regular” mom to Mattox?
Just getting to be near him was enough for me. I held him as often as I was allowed. I stared for hours and hours at him and I talked to him constantly.
They only let us hold him every three hours so we came back down to have our touch time. Touch time was a priceless time to get to have with our new son and bond with him. I will remember that time forever.
How was it relating to friends and family during your NICU stay?
Keeping people informed on his status was exhausting and happened as I could do it. The world was nonexistent to me most of the time as I just wanted to be with Mattox and be near him.
Was there anything anyone did for you that helped make the NICU stay easier?
We couldn’t have done it without the help of our family helping with our other children. However, two special things come to mind. First, a dear family friend brought my husband and kids dinner one evening which was so great. Second, Brandon (my husband) brought me my favorite large, frozen white chocolate mocha with no whip each morning after Mattox’s birth which got me going each morning and was a huge thing to me.
Hope and happiness
What would you tell a mom who has a preemie baby in NICU right now?
I would tell her to spend as much time with your baby as you want and can. You were blessed to be your baby’s momma and he/she knows when you’re there and knows your voice intimately.
Furthermore, crying is going to happen. It’s okay and I urge you to let it all out. It really seems to help. Let yourself heal and have your time to recover from birth. We can’t be what we need to be for our child without first taking care of ourselves after such a huge experience. If you need help, ask for it. None of us have all the answers and it’s okay to have help. Lastly, hold your child as much as you want; time seems to go so fast and it’s okay to spoil your little lovey.
How is your preemie today?
He’s now seven months old. Positively perfect in every way. Healthy and loved to the extreme.
I always say preemie moms deserve a merit badge. What merit badges do you think you have earned?
A ‘crazy blessed’ badge. I am blessed with the family God bestowed on me. God has been so good to me.