On Jumping Off A Cliff With The Hopes That A Tiny Branch Might Save You [Pregnancy After Preemie].


My full term daughter was born on December 23, 2018 on a full moon. A cold moon. The cold full moon, and the first day of capricorn: the goat. She burst out with her robust cry weighing 8 pounds, and they put her on my chest so she could feel me and smell me. We laid there together for almost 30 minutes before I cut her umbilical cord.

Her name is Greta. She is very strong.

Her brother Elliott, a surviving twin who was born at 26 weeks, is now seven years old.

The surreal nature of my daughter’s birth was stunning— I laid there with this gigantic sweet baby whom I could touch and who was in the same room with me, and I couldn’t believe the sheer grace of the entire thing. That I could protect her eyes from the lights with my hands, that she could sense me, that she wasn’t immediately swifted away in an avalanche of terror, that there was no loss. I couldn’t stop crying. All emotions came overwhelmingly to the surface, and as someone who’s been called “stoic”, it was like being in a whirlpool.


Everything about her strength brought me back to the precariousness of her brothers’, William and Elliott’s, birth.

From the minute of the positive pregnancy test my body awakened to the dread of what could happen-- what could finally come again— what would probably do me in for once and for all— the loss of another baby. And each moment of the pregnancy felt like a conscious decision that I could be putting another baby into a dangerous situation for the fact that they were living inside of my body.


My body: the one that I still, deep down, blame/d for the death of my son William and for the prolonged hospitalization of Elliott. My angry and disorganized body. The body that could go haywire at 26 weeks and people could die from— that body. My friend Erika said she would make birth announcements that mentioned that nobody died; she got it. I just hoped I got that far.

So that’s the background.

There was this other half of me that had always longed for more babies despite my massive fears.

I found a doctor I trusted. We talked about the medical history. I pulled from my ancient knowledges to describe each medical intervention they used with my boys and tried to keep myself from describing my sons’ suffering as a result of the preterm labor. She said the Makena shot was a miracle. She said she’s seen a lot of success.

At 18 weeks, as we approached the danger zone, my high risk doctor joked that due to my advanced maternal age, previous preterm labor, and my (new and fun thing [kidding]) low-lying placenta, that we had our work cut out for us. I bit my lip trying not to worry, but spent the rest of the afternoon that day googling each condition, the likelihood of preterm labor associated with it, and crying.

I realized throughout the pregnancy that there was power in my body’s memory, and that I had pushed that part out of me— out of my conscious thought. I realized that my body remembered everything despite my desperate and elaborate attempts to eradicate it over the course of 7 years. And with the help of my partner and my doula, I tried to walk through the steps of acceptance that this was not the same, that it would not be the same, even if the darkest of fears felt as if it was omnipresent. When the labor hit and it was real, the emotions rushed to the surface again, even despite my knowing we were in the “safe zone” of being past 37 weeks. And by some grace, I was lucky enough to be able to experience giving birth to a healthy daughter. Through the entire pregnancy and the birth, I was able to start forgiving myself (maybe for the first time) for the things that were not my fault, possibly for the fact that historically I had only experienced trauma associated with childbirth and motherhood.


The night before she was born I saw two falling stars.

Greta and Elliott <3

Greta and Elliott <3

There is something to be said for getting the chance to sleep in the same room with your baby the night they were born and to KNOW exactly what it feels like to not have that for 88 days, or ever. For being able to put her in a carseat and take her away from the hospital a couple of days after her birth, and remembering the carseat tests that kept your son from leaving for days. For feeling her suckle within the first hour of her birth—something I had never experienced. To put her in clothes you picked out (the nurses had dressed Elliott the first time, when I wasn’t there). To listen to her breathe unassisted, no wires or tubes: to hear her full cry even in those very first moments, a LOUD cry. Even in staying up all night with her for months on end— just you and your family— and no one to tell you some dire reason that she couldn’t sleep. For being able to make the first decisions for her, and not having to weigh what medical intervention would be the least likely to have long term consequences.

Pregnancy after preemies, for me, was like being repatriated with the things I never thought I’d experience having, and to have every moment of it be a godsend, but a godsend of which I was hyperaware. I sometimes think that only the parents who’ve experienced trauma have this “gift”: the gift of being able to recognize and feel gratitude for the very precious thing you have in front of you, to have your hopes realized in the form of a baby, to not have the capability of taking the fragility of that for granted. To be reminded of the strength of your babies that were forced to fight. To realize the absolute gift that babies are. I am filled with a gratitude that is just as wordless and powerful as the grief (and gratitude) that came with loss almost 8 years ago, and once again, I am speechless.

[Note: I’ve debated for months whether or not to write this blog with the understanding that this isn’t what always happens with a pregnancy after preemie. The intention of this is not to say that this is what typically happens nor that this was simple. I chose not to discuss the various issues that came up over the course of my pregnancy that were scary (in this particular blog). This is not intended to imply that only healthy babies are worthy. My hope was to convey the wonder and love that came back to me with my daughter, and existed wholly with my sons, albeit under different circumstances.]

Book Review: "The Moment You Were Born"

The phrase "the moment you were born," for NICU parents, might conjure images of what was likely a traumatic delivery, the fervor of doctors and nurses transferring the baby to the intensive care unit, or the moment that the family's lives shifted toward a completely different reality than we'd ever expected. In the new book "The Moment You Were Born", however-- beautiful images couple with a story that is as expressive as it is meaningful-- to rewrite that narrative and attempt to create a space of calmness, even in difficult circumstances.

Written by a pediatric speech pathologist who has also worked in NICUs and with the children who have graduated from them; in addition to a clinical pediatric neuropsychologist who has worked in NICU follow up clinics as well as schools for children with special needs, the book is both gently educational and artistically beautiful. It's clear that it's written by individuals who have a deep knowledge of the NICU and the feelings that it can bring. The illustrations "normalize" the ways that NICU infants appear, while the text speaks to the various frustrations that come with not being able to hold your baby right away, focusing on the amount of love NICU parents feel towards their babies.

Not only is this book appropriate to read to your infant while s/he is still in the NICU, it may also be a helpful book to read to children when they ask what it was like when they were in the NICU. What I like about the notion of reading it in the NICU specifically is that it explains the difficulty of being in hospital and the deep desire that parents harbor to be able to hold and become close with their babies-- even when physically, they can't. To me it seems that it would be comforting to explain those circumstance to the baby, to use your calming voice to explain to them how strong they are, and how strong your love is for them. It's hard to adjust to the idea that the best way of strengthening your attachment with your baby is sometimes solely through the use of your voice; this book not only helps you guide that idea and feel more empowered within it; it very literally illustrates it and gives parents the opportunity to set a very loving tenor to that bond. 

It's refreshing to read a book that specifically addresses the unique circumstances that NICU parents face, while at the same time giving suggestions as to how to build attachment, putting words to the strength of the babies and families who are going through the NICU, and talking about our babies' remarkable introduction to the world. I highly recommend this book to anyone who's been through the NICU, but especially to those families who have just been inducted into it, and are struggling to find a way to connect with their baby, and don't yet feel comfortable in knowing how.

Check it out here and stay tuned for a giveaway of a free copy from NICU Healing in the coming weeks!