There was no amount of planning, preparing, reading, or discussion that could have possibly prepared us for the adventure of parenthood. We were completely blind to the fact that things may not go perfectly smooth. We certainly didn't expect an emergency c-section at 32 weeks due to severe preeclamsia. Parenthood has taught us many lessons we never thought we would be learning. It's amazing how an event so huge, that you think you will learn so much from, does end up teaching you the biggest life lessons but lessons totally different than you anticipated. Of course we were instantly overwhelmed by the love we felt for Tripp. It was and still is the greatest feeling we've ever had in life. We've learned to survive on two hours of sleep for months on end. We're experts at diaper changes. However, we were also blessed to learn a few life lessons we didn't plan on.
Here are a few of the unexpected lessons we've learned so far.
1. PLAN?? That's funny!
We have learned this year that no matter how much you plan or prepare you will always be trumped by Gods plan. Thank goodness because His plan always ends up being the best plan. I'm sure it goes without saying that Brian and I are planners... almost to a fault. I truly feel like our adventure with a premature baby and life in the NICU was a HUGE lesson in patience and faith. The growth we have experienced by living God's plan has been absolutely amazing. Far greater than we could have imagined. We learned that it's ok to have a plan with the understanding that things may change and we have learned the being flexible is essential. It's sad that it took a premie baby to teach us this lesson... but alas we have learned! I've decided from now on in life I will try to be more of a preparer and less of a planner.
Having Tripp has been the most humbling experience of our lives. The emotions of having our 2 pound 14 ounce baby laying helplessly in an isolette and knowing there wasn't a single thing we could do for him was unbelievably humbling and also unbelievable frustrating. We kept asking the neonatologist what we could do to help and kept receiving the same answer.
DON'T RUSH HIM. GIVE HIM TIME. BE PATIENT.
Ha! Patience is not something that either of us were blessed with. I always say that the hours in the NICU were so long but the days seemed to fly by. We found ourselves wanting him to gain weight, eat from a bottle, wear real clothes, and sleep in a crib instead of an isolette NOW... we were being selfish. We learned that he had to do these things on his time and when he was ready. It was best for him to go at HIS pace not ours. We learned that being patient made those milestones that much sweeter knowing he was ready and thriving. We learned that rushing him led to set backs for him which was even more heartbreaking. We learned very quickly that his needs came before our wants. We would ask the neonatologist frequently what his "current goal" was and we were repeatedly given the same answer.
TO EAT, GROW, AND LIVE.
This answer instantly brought us back to the reality of his situation and the fragility of his tiny life and body.We quickly learned to be patient.
So patient that on his day of discharge, when we were being sent home with a 4lb 14oz baby, we were asking if they were sure he was ready! They assured us that he was... I'm not totally sure that we were convinced WE were ready :-) Talk about intimidating!
3. ASK FOR HELP... IT'S OK!
I've always been the type to do everything on my own. I refused to ask for help because I never wanted to inconvenience people. This experience put me in a position that I was physically unable to do everything on my own. I learned through this experience that it's ok to rely on other people and it's even ok to ASK for help sometimes. I've finally realized that if people branch out and offer to help it's because they truly want to. This was huge for me! I was in a position that left me pretty helpless and forced me to depend on others. Honestly, this was good for me. I needed to learn that in life there are times I need to depend on others. I've learned that people don't help or volunteer things that they aren't happy to do! One of my big fears in life is inconveniencing people so in turn I try to do everything on my own. I've learned people truly enjoy helping. I guess had I turned the situation around a long time ago I would have realized that when I help others its because I truly want to... I'm not sure why it took me so long to realize this but I'm so glad I did. I learned that it's ok to admit that I can't do it all and that it isn't a sign of weakness. I've also learned that sometimes it shows more strength to admit that you need help.
4. REACH OUT TO OTHERS
I can't tell you how many times in life I've seen people in difficult situations, going through hard times, or just not acting their normal selves and I've watched from the sidelines. It has never been because I didn't care but rather that I didn't want to make them feel uncomfortable and truth be told it was probably because I was a little bit uncomfortable myself. Maybe because I didn't know them that well or maybe because I didn't know what to say or do. I didn't want to overstep my boundaries. I felt that if they wanted to talk about it they would reach out. I felt like if they needed help they would ask and I would obviously be more than happy and willing to do whatever they needed! Again, it was never due to the fact that I didn't care but because I didn't know if reaching out was the right thing to do.
I'll never watch from the sidelines again. I've learned that it's always so great to know people care! I received texts, calls, and visits from people I barely knew. Now they are great friends. People dropped off baskets with drinks and snacks. There were lots of days that all I had time to eat was a granola bar and gatorade from those baskets. I had days that the walls of my hospitality room felt like they were caving in and then I would get a text from a friend that just said "thinking about you" and all of a sudden I realized that I wasn't alone, our situation was temporary, and we were SO blessed to have a baby that was living, breathing, and thriving. I received Facebook messages from people that I had no idea even knew what was going on in our lives. I would look through comments on Facebook and realize how many people were behind us and how many people cared. That was so uplifting.
So from now on I'll send that text. People don't have to respond if it's a bad time. If they're sleeping I've learned first hand that they're so exhausted either it won't wake them or they'll go right back to sleep. I'll be dropping of little necessities. The last thing I was thinking about was running out to grab snacks, drinks, gum, or a hot meal. Those little things were game changers and often totally turned our day around. If someone says they don't need help I'm doing it anyway! I understand that there are times when people don't want visitors... I've been there. I can truly say though there was never a time when people stopped by that they left and I wasn't in a better mood and better emotional place. There were several times people offered help, I declined, and they showed up anyway and I was SO glad! We had meals dropped off on our porch with notes that read "Didn't want to bother you but here's dinner." I can guarantee you that was the BEST meal we had in days. People sent premie clothes... I'm sure they didn't realize that we had been holding our breath and waiting for the day they told us he could put an outfit on but of course ordering clothes online was the last thing on our mind and going out to a store was totally out of the question. When we received those clothes in the mail that was truly the first outfits we had to dress him in! There were numerous times people would drop off notes while I was in with Tripp and I would find them when I got back to the room. The tiniest piece of encouragement changed the entire day!
So I learned that from now on to just do it! If someone says no... do it anyway. It's easier to ask for forgiveness later than permission now :-) Just to know someone is thinking of you can change your entire attitude.
5. POWER OF PRAYER AND FAITH
What did we do when we had a baby at 32 weeks, he couldn't eat on his own, he couldn't breath on his own, he was sleeping in an isollete because he couldn't maintain his temperature on his own, and we had this new, amazing responsibility as a parents but realized there wasn't a single thing we could do for our new baby. We PRAYED! We asked everyone we knew, everyone our parents knew, our friends and everyone they knew to do the same thing! It's so hard for me to imagine how people who don't have faith get through these kinds of situations... because prayer was our only hope and only source of peace. I remember driving to the doctors office the day Tripp was delivered and praying the hardest, most gut wrenching prayer I have in my entire life. He was born forty five minutes later at 2lb 14oz because it was safer for him to be here in this world than in my belly. He is now thriving at 10lb 3oz. We had people praying for this little boy all across the country and those prayers were certainly felt. It was a completely humbling experience to realize that we had no control. We could pray and we could have faith but ultimately Tripp was in God's hands. It was pretty powerful and extremely tough lesson to learn. However, this lesson has definitely been the most important of all.
6. WE HAVE A NEW RESPECT FOR OUR PARENTS!
There are so many times that we look at Tripp and think..."WOW... this is how our parents feel and have felt about us for years!" We had no idea and I don't think there is any way to comprehend those emotions until you go through it. The nights of no sleep, nonstop crying, and trial and error to figure out what is making Tripp so upset... they went through all of that with us! Don't even get me started on how excited we get about poop around here. We are only three months in to this journey and we are already so blown away to think that our parents did all of this for us. The love we feel for Tripp is indescribable and to think this is how they've been feeling for years. The fear we have that something may happen to him is a fear they've felt for over 30 years. I'll never forget talking to my Dad on the phone while Tripp was in the NICU. I told him that I felt guilty because I wasn't being 100% optimistic even though he had overcome every single hurdle and met every goal sooner than the neonatologist hoped and expected. I told him I felt 90% encouraged and optimistic but 10% fearful that something was going to go wrong. I felt like I had a pit in the bottom of my stomach 24/7 because I was terrified of something going wrong. I was terrified that something bad was going to happen to him. His words will stay with me forever.
"I'm sure a small part of that is his situation but don't get your hopes up that that feeling will go away. It isn't because he's in the NICU. That is how it feels to be a parent."
When we called to tell them we were having a c-section they were there immediately. They dropped everything to come to Tennessee and now we can completely understand why they wouldn't have it any other way. We're their babies after all and when your babies and their baby is in trouble you don't blink an eye- YOU JUST GO.
We just had no idea.
7. IT'S OK TO NOT BE OK.
Brian and I both have a problem showing weakness. We try not to complain and we try to see the positive side of things. We put on a smile even when we don't feel like it sometimes. Don't get me wrong... life is truly great about 98% of the time and we're generally very happy people but everyone has that 2% that they want to just say they're having a crappy day.
This experience has taught us that it's ok to not be ok because sometimes things in life really aren't ok. I struggled admitting that this situation was so difficult because I felt like I was being ungrateful. Here I was with a beautiful little baby, alive, slowly gaining weight... I should have been so thankful and I WAS absolutely so thankful! I finally realized that even though I knew we were incredibly blessed that it's also ok to admit that this experience was hard. I cried A LOT! There were days that I sat for hours reading articles on the internet and scaring myself to a point of being nearly inconsolable. I remember walking down the hall to the NICU seeing mothers being transported from labor and delivery with their husbands pushing a crib behind them filled with an 8lb baby and nearly bursting in to tears. We were scared, frustrated, and at times discouraged. There were days that just plain sucked. I learned quickly that sometimes in life things aren't totally ok... and that it's ok to admit that. Sometimes you need to admit that in order to receive the support you need. Sometimes admitting things are hard, admitting that things kind of suck, or admitting you're scared can be so liberating. It's human. Plus most of the time people can see straight through the "It's OK" coming from someone whose eyes are welled up with tears, bright red, puffy, and it looks like they haven't slept in days. Come on now :-)
People who care enough to inquire deserve for you to shoot it to them straight. "I know I'm so blessed and I'm so thankful for how far we've come... but today kind of stinks." It's OK.
As of December 30th we're back on the farm. We just had the most incredible holiday season. Brian's family was here for Thanksgiving and mine for Christmas. It was just so special. It's amazing how much a little guy can totally rock your world.
We have learned so much through this experience. We've grown individually, grown in our marriage, and grown in our relationship with God. We've developed new friendships. We have a new appreciation for each other, our family, and our friends. We've learned to really lean on each other in times of hardship. We have always tried to cherish every day and be present in life but recognize the importance of doing so much more now than ever.
There is no way Brian and I could ever truly express how thankful we are to have such amazing friends and family. If you called, texted, sent a Facebook message, sent clothes or cards, dropped off food... THANK YOU!! I want you to know that it truly did make our day! We have been absolutely blown away by everyones generosity and thoughtfulness. We've said numerous times throughout this experience that we couldn't imagine how people do it without a support system. I'm trying really, really hard to work on Thank You cards... it isn't happening as quickly as I was hoping. Babies require lots of time and energy :-) I promise they're coming!
More importantly, thank you to everyone who has kept Tripp and our family in your prayers. It is truly the very best and most powerful gift you could ever give someone. We have felt all of those prayers and the power of prayer is truly evident in our little man! I'm posting this on our blog because I realize prayer is often silent. If you have been praying for us silently- Thank you!
We're looking forward to welcoming 2016 with full hearts and a chubby baby. Tripp weighed 10lb 3 oz this morning and has stepped on to the full term baby growth curve. He is rocking several leg rolls and several chins. He is interactive and looking around. He is noticing things, grabbing full fists of hair, and making tons of new noises. He has started smiling when he hears our voices which makes the late nights, early morning, and all nighters totally worth every second. He gave my Dad his first little baby giggle. He has completely changed our lives and we are so thankful. We have been totally humbled and we don't take a single blessing for granted.
Thank you all again for all of your love. There are no words that could ever express our gratitude.
Now... I'm off to play with our sweet baby!