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Parenting: The Beginning Years

Parenting itself is full of ups and downs.  It’s filled with hopes, dreams, and best wishes for the children you have given birth to.  I initially was scared to death to have children.  Initially it was about being selfish and then it was more related to being responsible for the outcome of a child in this world.  Here I am today, a proud mother of two young adults, 23 and 20 years old.  In these short years of their lives, we’ve had celebrations, disappointments, we have won some battles and lost others.  Now that they are branching out on their own, I worry about their safety and how the world will treat them.  Remember they are our children regardless of their age.

My first scare with parenting was with my son.  He was born at 25 weeks and weighed 1 pound and 10 ounces.  I recall the doctor saying we have to deliver, and my thoughts were delivering what?  I thought this because there was no way it was time to deliver my child.  The doctors warned us that he probably would not make a sound when he is delivered due to his prematurity and the lack of lung development.  When he was born, he cried the smallest squeal I’d ever heard.  Then they whisked him off to work on him and got him settled in the neonatal intensive care unit (NIC unit).  I recall having to go down the hall and ring a bell in order to see my newborn.  I recall having to go home without my son.

Who imagines having a baby and leaving the hospital without them.  In my mind I thought he is still living.  I cried and pretended that he was fine, that I was fine.  My phrase to everyone was, “he just has to grow into his shoulders”.  Echoing the exact words that the doctors said to me.  For some reason I had to ease the minds of family and friends.  The danger in that was…they believed me, and I did not leave any room for anyone, not even my mother to step in and support me in ways that I had no idea that I needed support.

Parenting. The next three months I sat next to an incubator, praying, reading, eating, and singing.  I felt helpless as a mom, but one thing I took pride in was pumping milk for him.  There was a time that my milk supply was not coming in fully.  I didn’t know the nurses had been mixing formula with my breast milk.  I recall my husband at the time making the nurses hide the formula so I would not see it until they discussed it with me.  My initial thoughts were sheesh what a great mom you are.  Honestly, who taught us to be so hard on ourselves as mothers?  Why did I feel inadequate?  We as parents do not need others to judge us or talk about us, some of us do it all by ourselves.  I did.  Who put that pressure on me about breast feeding?  I did.  Eventually he was removed from the breathing tube, and I was able to nurse him.  Let me comment about the power and the presence of a Father.  His dad was very reluctant to hold him because he was tiny.  His wedding ring literally fit on our son’s wrist.  The day his father held him, he came off the ventilator and never returned.  Men and women bring different energy to our children.  I remember the hours I would rock him skin to skin while he grew and thrived.

As I talked with other mothers in the NIC unit they talked about all the services available to their little ones.  They mentioned that the social worker on the floor offered this to all the mothers of premature babies.  A social worker never once spoke to me about services available to my family.  I knew it was blatant discrimination, because I was the only black mother on the unit at that time.  I did not have the energy at the time to inquire.  I focused on my little one thriving and coming home.  I had decided to go back to work until my little one came home and then take time off to take care of him.  I was such a proud parent showing friends and colleagues my beautiful child.  Then one day I saw the look of horror on one of their faces and realized he wasn’t as cute as I thought.  At that time, I laughed to myself because he was tiny, had tubes, medical equipment, and he was baking in an incubator.  Of course he was the most precious sight I’d seen.   I laughed and decided not to traumatize another soul.  Again, not allowing the opportunity to really talk about my parental fears like, would my child really be ok.  Thinking, but not expressing is this my fault, where did I go wrong?

I started looking into various programs that would help with the special formula he needed for nourishment.  I was told I made too much money to qualify.  No one told me about the loophole. You have to be denied, before you are accepted.  I had bigger things on my mind than fighting a system that often operates on omitting information to certain families.  This was the second occurrence of discrimination, omission, or simply apathy to families needing support.

During my son’s three month stay in the hospital, parents lost children, some of the children had multiple surgeries, scares and the lucky ones graduated to the special room where you stayed all night with your baby to represent home, before actually taking your child home.  My son managed those three months with no additional surgeries or brain bleeds.  He was initially on a ventilator (life support), feeding tube, and they baked him under warm lights to rid him of jaundice.  The day came that he came home with us.  We had the baby, car seat, a heart monitor, pulse ox monitor, and an oxygen tank all in tow to set up his nursery.   For the next three years a developmental specialist worked with us to ensure all developmental milestones were met.  He conquered them all one by one. #ProudMomOfTwo

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