My preemie is my son Kevin "Paddy". Paddy was born at 26w, 4d due to pre-eclampsia and had a 128 day NICU stay. He had lots of lung issues and reflux and his ongoing issue is Failure to Thrive. He's now just shy of 23 months and weighs 18 1/2 pounds. However he is a dynamo. All energy and charm - always on the go but quick with a hug and kiss too.
It effected me in the short term - just the total crisis with the pregnancy and his NICU stay. The first year after discharge was quite a ride but my husband and I were able to draw on the help of family and friends, especially my mom, to get through. Now that we're into his second year at home things have settled down a bit and I feel like we're moving out of preemie mode and into normal parenting mode with a dash of special needs for his food issues.
I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop with the NICU stay thing. The first few weeks were rough as were the last few weeks but for the long haul in the middle I handled it fairly well. It was what it was and - other than worrying about his survival - I wasn't sad that Paddy was in the NICU rather than home with us since in my mind (and reality) he wasn't supposed to be at home with us because he shouldn't have been born yet. I'm 32 weeks pregnant now and expected those emotions to kick in but so far nothing. Maybe I'll have something pop up once the new baby arrives.
Before having Paddy my only exposure to preemies was a cousin's twins born at 34 weeks. Since having Paddy I feel like preemies are everywhere.
I was a planner before I had Paddy and I'm now much more a take things as they come person. It's also improved my patience.
Make friends with the nurses and support staff at the NICU and beyond. These people will tell you what's what more so than most neos (and don't get me wrong, I loved our neos). Let go of the guilt (and go to counseling if you can't let go or are experiencing PPD or PTSD). Chances are there is nothing you or anyone else could have done to prevent whatever landed your child in the NICU so accept that and move forward.
Be nice to your partner. The first year with any baby is hard. You may want to clobber him or her over the head with a frying pan occasionally. Trust me - they want to do the same thing to you every once in awhile. Get a babysitter and take a nap! One night my husband and I met friends for dinner and then, on a whim, went to our local casino to just blow off steam. The casino happened to be across from our son's hospital and I had to talk my husband out of stopping by on our way home at 2am.