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Challenge: NICU Parenting

A Preemie Parent's Thoughts on Thanksgiving

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I wish I could say I love holidays as much as I am supposed to.

Hanging six stockings instead of seven and filling one less Easter basket is enough to make me want to pull the covers over my head and wake up once the fridge is full of leftovers. But I have a wonderful husband and four living children who would not dare let me stay in bed while their eyes are open, so I have learned to shape our holidays into what I can handle. I don’t have it in me to manage the craziness of big parties and the hustle and bustle of all the holiday happenings that were our life before. But Thanksgiving I can do. Actually I think I’m pretty good at it.

If there is one thing watching three preemies fight for their lives and ultimately losing one of them has taught me, it is to be thankful.

I struggled with this in the beginning-- the thought of being thankful when I was bitter about having such premature children and feeling cheated out of a lifetime with their sister-- but her last breath and these little survivors who kept on breathing, left me with an understanding of the fragility of life that will forever change the way I cherish life around me.

I am thankful down to my toes to have a house full of living, breathing children because I know things could have turned out much differently. Of course there are days they push my patience to impressive limits but after every tantrum, mess or sibling argument there is a moment when my mind quiets and I remember I am lucky for the simple fact they are alive.

The gratitude I have for life is hard to explain. I have watched life stop when I had no idea it would, to watch it go on and on each day never ceases to amaze me.

Thanksgiving in the NICU

When I put my kids down to sleep at night I am very aware of the fact there are moms out there who pass by a nursery they have never been able to use but can’t bear to take down. When my husband is running late from work I immediately run through my head to our last conversation to make sure I told him I loved him and the answer is always yes. We dish out I love you‘s like candy in this house.

I used to worry how my children would be affected by their early beginning and a mom who spent too much of their toddler years crying, but now I look back and hope I’ve maintained the conscious gratitude I had when their fragile beginning was so recent. They won’t remember the dishes piled in the sink while we were all playing hide-and-seek or that Mommy and Daddy ran to them a little too quickly if they got hurt because we were a tad on the paranoid side.

I think, at least I hope, that we have built our family with a contagious amount of love and gratitude and a deep appreciation for the fact that Thanksgiving is the one holiday we have in the bag.

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