Sometimes becoming a parent doesn't happen the way we imagine...
We imagine we will meet our babies as they're placed in ours arms — but sometimes we meet them from outside a glass box instead. We will watch them day in and day out, as if we are looking in through a window, while they strengthen and grow.
We imagine we will take our babies home only days after they are born — but sometimes our babies do not come home with us for weeks or months. Night after night we will kiss them goodbye and leave them in the hospital.
We imagine how we will listen to their sweet gurgles and cries - but sometimes those precious sounds are muffled by a breathing tube and the hum of a ventilator. The ventilator will breathe for them until they are strong enough to do it on their own.
We imagine how we will cradle our babies in the crook of our arms — but sometimes their tiny fragile bodies fit perfectly in just the palm of our hands. Their own arms barely the size of our fingers.
We imagine we will be able to breastfeed them or bottle feed them — but sometimes our babies are fed through a tube in their nose, or a tube in their stomach, or a drip in their arm. It will be many weeks or months before they will feed for themselves and still some will go home with the tubes.
We imagine that we will learn to read our babies cries so we can respond to their needs— but sometimes we have to learn to read their monitors instead. We track their oxygen saturation, their heart beat, their blood pressure. We will know more medical terms, medicines, treatments and procedures than we ever thought possible.
We imagine that we will settle our babies by rocking or patting or cuddling them — but sometimes we have to stand by as they are settled with sedatives and pain relief. Only on their very good days will we get the cuddles we so desire.
We imagine we will bathe our babies each night before bed — but sometimes our babies have their first bath after weeks or even months in the hospital. Instead we will learn to do their 'cares'; we will change their nappy, wipe their eyes and take their temperature on a schedule.
We imagine how we will hear our babies cry out for their nighttime feeds — but sometimes we have to wake instead to express milk, with only photos of them to keep us company. These will be our loneliest times, full of longing and exhaustion.
We imagine how we will take photos of our babies in the sweetest outfits- but sometimes instead of clothes, our babies wear wires, lines, tapes and tubes. Clothes will need to wait until they are much, much bigger.
We imagine and hope that the worst that happens to our babies might be a runny nose or a bad cough — but sometimes just the smallest of germs will be far too big for their tiny bodies to handle. Illness and infection will be our constant fear.
We imagine how we will marvel at how big our babies have grown and how quickly time is passing — but sometimes we will fight instead for every single gram our babies put on. The days will be long, their progress will be slow, and our patience will grow weary.
We imagine we will look at our babies in awe of their happiness, cheekiness and curiosity — but sometimes we will find ourselves in awe of qualities we never imagined we'd see so soon; resilience, bravery, strength and determination. They may not wear a cape, but there is no doubting that they will be our real-life superheroes.
Yes, sometimes becoming a parent doesn't happen the way we imagined.
So today on World Prematurity Day we salute all our miracle babies — those who are still fighting in hospital; those in our arms at home; those who are now fully grown; and those whose memories will live on forever in our hearts.