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Challenge: NICU Parenting

A Letter to My Daughter — Joys and Frustrations of a Premature Brother

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I wrote this letter to my daughter, Lorelei, last fall. Her brother was born six months prior at 31 weeks gestation. A year has passed and I realize how much of this is a general truth, not just the truth of prematurity.


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Dear Yai Yai,

This has, without a doubt, been the craziest year of your life, at least from my perspective. That whole being born thing may have seemed crazier from yours.

In one four-month period you turned 5, saw me hospitalized with severe preeclampsia, saw your baby brother born at 31 weeks and witnessed his subsequent hospital stay, and you started kindergarten. Any of that would have been a huge change. But our family went through all of that in rapid succession.

I wonder what you will remember of it. You are so smitten with your brother. The look on your face the first time you held him was amazing. You were in awe of this three pound wonder that had come into your world.

But sometimes it is easy to forget you are still so little yourself.

Every night, I ask you if you have any questions or anything you want to talk about. We did this intermittently for a long time, and picked it up in earnest when I was in the hospital, as a way to hopefully defuse some of the confusion you must have felt.

Tonight I asked if there was anything hard about being a big sister. You said it was hard when you want to cuddle but I am busy with your brother.

I know that the last six months have been focused on him, and the YaiYai-centric world has shattered. It is so easy to focus on his basic needs and overlook yours. Because you seem so impossibly big.

And then you melt down after a long day when my rope is thin, you tell me you hate me, that you don’t love me anymore. And I realize how immediate your needs feel to you. That what you are really saying is that you are angry, frustrated, and at the end of your rope, as well.

All of our ropes have frayed at the ends, and sometimes it feels like we are just holding on to the thinnest of threads.

In the morning we fight, leaving school we battle, at bedtime we argue. In the in-between we have amazing moments. Adventures. Grand plans. Schemes, songs, crafts, and dreams.

I hope that someday the frayed edges are sewn back together by those moments of joy. I hope I am forgiven by you and myself for the days when I wasn’t enough. The days when everyone needed me and I had to prioritize my energy. The days when I yelled. When I said I didn’t have time. When my frustration cut to your core.

I hope you will remember it as something we got through together, as a family. That parents are amazingly imperfect, and sometimes we muck it all up because we are just treading water.

I have been amazed by your resilience, and humbled by your fragility.

At night you still cling to me like a life raft, my subtle hint that all will be well.

Love,

me

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Rhiannon Giles is an overwhelmed mother who only occasionally considers giving her children to the circus. She has a sarcasm problem and writes regularly at rhiyaya.com. To keep up with new posts and see some of her favorites, join her on Facebook and Twitter.

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