One of the most difficult things about being a preemie parent is the absence/delay of all of the big milestones of the first few days and weeks. It was nearly a week before I could touch Gwyneth without gloves on, nearly a month before I held her, three months before I could feed her from a bottle, etc. The NICU smells nothing like what most people think a new baby should smell like. Not to mention all of the developmental milestones. In fact, neither Tricia nor I were even really there for Gwyneth's birth. I was in a waiting room, and Tricia was sedated.
And, I can't even begin to imagine how it was for Tricia. That was actually one of the greatest frustrations for me during those months in the hospital. Because of Tricia's own health, she behaved and reacted to many things differently than I would have expected. Without going into great detail, because Tricia was so sick, and because she had so much less contact with Gwyneth than I did, it was even harder for her to connect with the idea and emotions of having a daughter. Gwyneth was nearly a month old by the time she even saw her, and nearly two months old before she could hold her. Even as her husband, it was hard, and really impossible at times, for me to understand what she was going through.
And, it became even more difficult when people would comment about their expectations of our thoughts and behaviors. "Tricia must have been so excited about...", or "You both must be so happy about..." became hard for me to hear and read, and made Tricia actually feel guilty if she heard/read them. Well meaning people thought they understood, but really had no idea. When we had guests visit at the hospital, I would often have to ask them, before going into Tricia's room, to not talk about the baby and the pregnancy unless Tricia brought it up. After the first few weeks (after Gwyneth's birth), I banned Tricia from reading comments until I could censor them, and I can't tell you how many of those comments I deleted, not because they were mean or insensitive, but simply because we couldn't emotionally deal with reading them.
We knew that, under normal circumstances, we would be acting and thinking the way most people would have expected. We would feel as we should the first time we both saw her, held her, took her home... But, we obviously weren't under normal circumstances, and it seemed that the only people who really understood that part of the picture were our family/friends and other families who have been through similar experiences.
I had to continually tell myself, "If I can't even understand some of the things Tricia is dealing with, I can't expect people to understand what I'm going through." And, I think that's one of the most difficult parts of these kinds of journeys...the knowledge that, while you're certainly not alone, most people just can't understand.
But, through the blog, so many have encouraged us by sharing their premature birth stories with us. And, that, in turn, is one of the primary reasons we have chosen to share our story. Most likely, somebody, if not several people reading these words right now will become parents of a premature baby at some point in the future. Being a preemie parent brings a lot of unnatural feelings and emotions. We knew very little about premature babies or what to expect as preemie parents before this experience, but we've learned a lot. And, we hope, that we can help others in the same way that we have been helped.