“You must be so glad to be out of the NICU and have those preemie days behind you.”

“You must be so glad to be out of the NICU and have those preemie days behind you.”

I didn’t know it at the time, but this was one of the most uninformed statements that anyone would ever say to me. Though the NICU was harrowing, traumatic, and unforgettable, I was even less prepared for what being a “Preemie Mom” truly meant.

Our journey as parents began in February 2017 when I was admitted to the hospital at 27 weeks pregnant with a very sudden and severe onset of preeclampsia - a serious complication characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system, most often the liver and kidneys. I had a very happy, healthy, and unremarkable pregnancy up until that point, so when testing results came back abnormally elevated it came as quite a shock. I was put on hospital bed rest while they tried to stabilize my condition and keep my quickly rising blood pressure under control. Prematurity is one of those things that you read about or see on television, but don’t think it’s ever going to happen to you. In fact, it was mentioned in one of the many books I faithfully studied during my short pregnancy, but I skipped over it thinking that it would never pertain to me.

It is rare, but an estimated 450,000 babies born prematurely each year in the United States, that’s about 10% of pregnancies that end in delivery before 37 weeks gestation. Our family became a part of this statistic when Flynn Reilly Mulligan was born at 28 weeks via emergency c-section.

In February instead of May, in Winter instead of Spring, before any baby showers, sweet baby bump photo sessions, or maternity clothes shopping sprees. He weighed slightly over two pounds and was just over a foot long - and we were in love with every ounce and every inch that made him. For the next seven weeks following Flynn’s delivery, I witnessed countless struggles. I witnessed deterioration. I witnessed indescribable courage and strength. I witnessed the life of the NICU. I also watched my son survive, change statistics, beat the odds, defy all expectations, and finally come home.

With our family finally whole and in one place, though we were anxious to be caring for such a fragile life without the help of doctors and nurses, we were overjoyed. We quickly settled into our role as parents and a routine which involved scheduled feedings with meticulous instructions, lots of sleep for baby, lots of planner-filling for mommy, and countless appointments with doctors, specialists, and therapists. The NICU is just the beginning of preemie life and discharge is a major step, but it’s not the end.

We’ve since become very familiar with the offices of audiologists, ophthalmologists, physiatrists, neonatologists, developmental pediatricians, neurologists, gastroenterologists, pulmonologists...you name it, we’ve done it. Flynn sees his teachers - his physical therapist, special instruction teacher, occupational therapist, and speech and feeding therapist - for ten hours each and every week, regardless of snow, rain, sleet, or tantrum. The offices are near, far, and everywhere in between and we make it happen. It all comes with the territory of being a preemie parent.

“You must be so glad to be out of the NICU and have those preemie days behind you.”

Of course, I am endlessly happy to be out of the NICU. All things considered, our family is one of the lucky ones to witness a true miracle. As for those preemie days? We’re in them full- throttle two years later with no end in sight. Our obstacles change, our goals change, our family learns and grows, but we will always be in these preemie days.

This story was written by Kristina Mulligan for our Hello Parents series. Our mission is to create a community of extreme inclusivity. Appreciating what makes us different and what we all have in common. No judgment. Just a village of support.

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I am also the parent to a preemie! First I would like to say congratulations and salute you because I know first hand how rough a NICU stay can be !! My son came at 33w4d he was a healthy weight but because his umbilical cord was only 7 inches he would not descend down as he should have… this is were the nightmare began! The doctor placed a vacuum on his small little head ,and because he had so much hair it popped of SEVERAL TIMES!! The vacuum was used 8 times, this should have never happened to begin with ! My first born , was injured 🤕 during the delivery, his skull was fractured, and caused his little brain to bleed , which in turn caused him to have seizures!! The joys of being a mother were ripped out of my arms and I had to watch my poor baby struggle for his life day after day !! He dropped in weight to 3 pounds 2 ounces and I was told this was from his seizures! On day 4 when I finally got to hold my sweet little boy, I entered the NICU with the happiest feelings I have ever felt and when I opened his bed to get him out just the touch of my finger sent him into a 24 minute seizure! All I could do was cry it seemed like all the doctors and nurses were just standing there and my sweet innocent baby was flopping like a fish .. TERRIFYING to say the least!! Then he was placed on minimal stimulation so he could only be handled to be changed,given his meds and blood drawls!
I had every step of my labor planned out I told every nurse my birth plan so we could all be on the same page and in the blink of an eye things I never expected to happen especially to a first time mom happened!! My son was finally transferred to a more intense hospital at 12 days old ! The NICU at the new hospital had specific times you could visit, this was extremely hard , but we managed to get through it and he finally was released from the hospital after 32 LONG DAYS! My hat goes off to each and every parent that has a child the requires time in the NICU , it really takes a strong person to endure this pain and feeling of NO CONTROL OVER YOUR CHILD!
Today at 6 months old my son Tristen still sees many doctors but all in all his neurologist said he made a remarkable recovery and definitely beats the odds that were against him 😇🙌🏼 To all the NICU moms out there stay strong babies are a lot stronger than we would like to think 🥰🥰💙

Whitney on

Kristina and her husband D j are without a single doubt two of the most amazing parents in this world….so very young themselves they have handled the lowest of loss and the highest of highs with grace, dignity, compassion, understanding, kindness and most of all love. Their son Flynn presented them with every opportunity to quit, to give up. instead they rose to and exceeded all expectations and have become the best parents to an amazing child. I am always in awe of them!

leatrice on

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