March 10 is the annual Parents of Preemies Day. This probably isn't your typical Parents of Preemies Day post, but here goes.
Being a parent of a preemie or a sick child is hard. Many of us know what it's like to watch our child struggle for life, being hooked up to countless machines and monitors, and feeling so helpless. We are proud of ourselves and our babies for beating what seemed like impossible odds, and we should be.
What I've come to realize through having a preemie and losing a child is that our journeys are our own. Whether your preemie was born at 32 weeks or 23 weeks your experience is your experience, no matter how "hard" or "easy" in someone else's eyes. I've definitely been in a place where it completely rubbed me the wrong way for people to talk about how difficult their baby's two day NICU stay was or how "hard" their pregnancy was. I still don't tolerate complaining well, but I also realize that people's feelings are their own and they are valid. If a two day NICU stay is the hardest thing they've ever been through, than who am I to tell them that they don't have a right to their feelings or that it wasn't a hard experience?
I would be very sad if someone told me that what we've been through wasn't "as bad" as someone else. Of course I know that things could have turned out completely differently. There is always someone who has it better or worse, but what I know is our situation and my own feelings. I will do my best to understand other situations, but we can never completely understand someone else's trials and joys because we haven't walked in their exact shoes. We walk similar journeys, but we each have our own unique experiences.
One of the awesome things about the preemie community is the amount of support parents can lend to each other. We can listen and learn and help each other out, even if we haven't been in that exact situation. But I also think there is a certain amount of comparing in the preemie world, just like in the "regular parent" world. In my opinion, comparing situations is an injustice to everyone involved. Like I said, I will be the first to admit that I've been there. I've been angry at pregnant people, I've been frustrated with people complaining about how hard their lives are with their baby who has no problems to speak of. But that is a place that I can't and won't stay. My babies don't deserve it and it wasn't doing anyone any good, especially me. I think it's a totally normal thing to go through and even necessary in the healing process, but I found myself becoming increasingly bitter and angry and I knew that it was a place I couldn't stay. The saying "Comparison is the thief of joy" was ringing very true to me. I was too busy deciding how others should or shouldn't feel and I was ignoring the little and big joys of my own life.
Along with our experiences comes a responsibility. No one plans to be a preemie parent or to have a sick child, but there are certainly a lot of us who have found ourselves tossed into this world. We can try and help others understand our situations. We have a unique perspective because of our children's beginnings. We can choose how we react to the situation we are handed. Taking a step back, not jumping to conclusions, and helping to educate others are things we can do to try and really support each other. We all make our own choices and they may come at different times in our journey. It may take longer to get to that place, and that's okay. We all process things differently in our own time. Parenting is hard and we've all been through a lot, so lets continue to support and encourage each other and help others understand, without comparing, the experiences we have been through.