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By Kaleena Berryman
I did everything right, and I still gave birth to a preemie at 24 weeks gestation. It makes us face the reality that not everything is in our control.
Everything can seem fine, and you can still have a preterm baby. When I went into labor at 23 weeks, I retraced the last six months, mindful of every detail. Where had I gone wrong? The baby was growing in my womb, so who else could I blame?
By the time I reached the hospital my little Jharid was in position. I was definitely going to have this baby soon. They said Jharid would be a micro preemie. I didn't know what having a “micro preemie” meant, but I was determined to bring my baby home with me when I left the hospital. The doctor instructed me to lie on my side, keep my legs elevated and relax. I performed those tasks to perfection. I barely moved. Food was taken out of the equation soon thereafter. Still, I made sure to do as I was told.
I listened; I prayed.
You can do everything right during your pregnancy and still have a preemie.
I have never smoked a cigarette a day in my life.
I have never used drugs of any kind.
My life was not filled with stress.
I eat a balanced diet, and I am a fairly active person.
During my pregnancy, I did not drink any alcohol.
The caffeine and coffee withdrawal was real.
I did not “work too hard” or overly exert myself.
I participated in prenatal care.
I did not find out I was pregnant “too late” and I followed the doctor’s orders to the letter.
I swore by prenatal vitamins.
I did not try to induce my own labor.
I never missed an appointment, and each one ended with the same four words, “Mom, everything is fine.”
Prematurity can happen to anyone.
There are habits and actions that do their best to prevent preterm birth, and also behaviors that can raise a mother’s risk of having her baby early. But, for the majority of us preemie moms, those factors weren’t our reality. We did not do anything different from every other pregnant mommy. Our baby’s prematurity was not our fault. It just happened.
Mom, your child being born premature is not your fault. Don’t get me wrong; every premature birth has a cause, some underlying and often undetectable trigger that expels our babies from our bodies before their due date. And then there are other causes, also beyond a mother’s control, such as stress, an accident, being sick, or living in poverty. Even still, most mothers of preemies do the best they can to ensure they deliver a healthy baby. They do what every other mother in the history of childbirth does.
Yes, you can do everything “right” and have a preemie. And yes, you can do everything “wrong” and deliver full term. Some things about life we will never understand. As parents, our job is to enjoy our baby for however long we have them. And because they were born early, we have them for a little longer than originally planned.
Prematurity can happen to anyone. Even those who do everything right. And yes, even you.
Special note from Kaleena: Most mothers carry around a heavy load of guilt, blaming themselves for their child’s NICU stay. The guilt of prematurity lasts longer than the NICU stay and sometimes leaves preemie moms depressed, sad and feeling like they have failed as a mother. But the fact of the matter is, you can do everything right during your pregnancy and still have a preemie. Join Kaleena, Praying 4 My Preemie, and other preemie parents in sharing your own story on social media with #idideverythingright. Let's change the narrative. Yes, prematurity can happen to anyone.
A version of this post originally appeared on Preemie Babies 101, the official blog of Hand to Hold
Also from Kaleena: 14 lessons being a preemie mom has taught me
All photos from Kaleena Berryman
Kaleena Berryman (NJ) is mom to Jharid, born at 24 weeks in 2012. After five months in the NICU battling complications such as ROP, BPD, Grade 3 brain bleeds and NEC, Jharid came home to his mom and dad a healthy, happy, thriving boy. Even though “Mom” is her most treasured title, Kaleena is also a writer, poet, mentor, and Program Coordinator for the Abbott Leadership Institute at Rutgers Newark. She wants to help other preemie parents develop their advocacy voice. She is the founder of a preemie parent support blog. Connect with her on Facebook.
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.