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Written by Christina Moss - Mississauga, Ontario
It's the most wonderful time of the year..." I thought as I announced I was pregnant on Christmas Eve to my family with a Christmas Card from Baby saying they were excited to meet them. I looked around the table and pictured a high chair at the end, between my husband and myself. The baby would be 5 months next Christmas. How memorable that first Christmas will be, filled with more love, laughter and little giggles.
Fast forward to May, and at 27 weeks and 2 days, my water began to leak. After 6 days in hospital, my daughter surprised us all when she came into the world at 28 + 1. All the joys of becoming a first time parent that I had envisioned seemed to have vanished in an instant as our concerns were now focused on getting my baby the care she immediately needed.
We spent the majority of the summer in the NICU. We learned about proper hand hygiene, taking care of ourselves so we could take care of our baby, and learned just how fragile a preemie baby could be. I missed only ONE DAY of her 91 day stay because I was feeling like I was fighting a cold. I still hate that I missed one day of her journey, but I was doing it to protect her and to keep her safe. Her safety and well-being was my new priority.
A week before discharge after our stay of just over 3 months, we were given our RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) and winter season educational talk in the midst of other daunting paperwork and chats. Life was going to feel different now. No guests with signs of a cold or flu, make hand washing stations, hand sanitizers at every door, and to not take any chances with her health. Keeping our child safe in our own home became our number one priority. It scared me. It really scared me. My husband and I made sure to get our Flu shots as soon as the season began and changed our routines. We lived in a germ free bubble. If I heard a sneeze, I grabbed her and ran the other way. No way was she getting sick on my watch.
The first major family holiday since her discharge the end of August came in October. My baby’s first Thanksgiving. So our emails and messages started flying: “If you've been near anyone sick, stay home. If you show up and sneeze you have to leave…” It was segregating us from everyone else. We missed the "typical" family Thanksgiving, since not everyone could be certain of not being ill. That was fine. I convinced myself I wasn't a big Thanksgiving person anyways.
Then, Fa La La…my baby’s first Christmas rolled around and the same emails flew around. This time with: "Please get your flu shot because she’s too young and fragile to get her own.”. We have always had huge Christmas gatherings. Christmas Eve was the biggest day, when my side of the family had our big Seafood Feast. Well, we had three school aged cousins and one teacher on my side. They were amongst a population who frequently fall ill and I just couldn't risk it. I couldn't bring my Preemie and risk her getting the flu, a cold, or worse, RSV. We asked the RSV clinic and they advised that it was best to skip this year. So we did (sort of).
My immediate family, my Mom, Brother and Sister (who received flu shots) were supportive and joined us in our new home by making a small version of our typical feast. Even my in-laws (who were mixed on the idea of a flu shot) got theirs as a sign of their support. My extended family was beyond supportive of our decision to not attend, more than I ever expected. And thanks to technology, we were able to share the holiday from afar... on Skype! No hugs were shared, no sounds of little giggles around the table like I expected for them. Instead a quiet night in, protecting my baby the best way I knew how.
I'm not going to lie, it was depressing (at the time) to sacrifice my annual Christmas traditions. It was one of the darkest Christmases I've ever experienced, emotionally. I felt sheltered. I felt alone at many times. I felt like no one knew what I was going through. It was after a few months into RSV season that I realized that I wasn’t alone. Many Preemie parents feel this way and make these small sacrifices (they never feel small at the time) for their children. It's what makes you a good parent. Our babies are our world. She is my world. I was able to protect her that first winter. I did my duty. I kept her safe. I protected her. I was Mom. I am a Preemie Mom!
This post is part of the #HealthyThisWinter Campaign sponsored by AbbVie Canada. The experience and comments listed above are my own.