Both of my daughters were premature. Norah (3) was born at 34w2d because of severe preeclampsia. She was 4lbs 11oz at birth. She had a 23-day NICU stay in which her main issue was learning how to eat. To this day, she remains an unenthusiastic eater. However, she is a smart, silly, affectionate preschooler who keeps me on my toes.
Emily (7.5m) was born at 35w0d because of low amniotic fluid, IUGR, and early signs of preeclampsia. She was 3lbs 8oz at birth. She had a 14-day NICU stay. Like her sister, learning to eat was the main focus of her NICU stay. Because of her low birthweight, it took nearly 2 months of hard work to transition her to breastfeeding, and now she is an eating machine and has quadrupled her birth weight! She loves to smile, but saves her biggest smiles for her big sister.
Being a mother of preemies has definitely changed my life and parenting. Even though my girls were late-term preemies, I'm more cautious about things. I also feel like it's given me more empathy for any mom whose birth experience didn't live up to their expectations. My faith is stronger because of the experiences I've had.
Prior to my daughters, I was clueless about preemies. I knew only one person whose late-term preemie was only in the hospital a few extra days. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing in the NICU. Having a second NICU stay was easier in some ways and harder in others. I had a very good idea of what to expect. I knew what I wanted, what I needed to do, and how to advocate for me and my child. I didn't have that culture shock like the first time. I spoke the language. However, it was so hard to have a NICU baby and a child at home. No matter where I was, I had to be apart from one of my babies. Having my whole family under one roof is something I don't take for granted anymore.
handled the NICU experience better the second time. I was shocked by the whole experience the first time and it took a while to get my bearings. The second time I focused on what needed to be accomplished to get my baby home. The emotions took a few months to catch up with me.
To a new preemie mom in a similar situation, I'd recommend that you gear up for some frustrating days (especially if you choose to breastfeed). Dig into whatever backup supply of patience you have. Ask questions. Know that it's okay to feel overwhelmed. Take any help that's offered to you. Snuggle that tiny baby close and know that even though it feels like an eternity, she will come home soon.