Haunted

April 14, 2007

It’s time to discuss a topic I’ve been avoiding discussing on this blog. It’s not anything I was intentionally keeping from you, just something I feel like I’ve discussed to death on the other blog. Unfortunately, I have refrained from even mentioning it on the other blog recently due to my recent editing to make everything there in-law safe (not that this isn’t in-law safe, just showing a vulnerable side of me I don’t want them to see). This is also coincidentally a deeper subject than I will normally talk about here–coincidentally because it falls on the heels of that Thinking Blogger post. I promise I was already planning to write this when that happened.

Any of you who have read very long at all know that PJ is a preemie. I’ve mentioned that in passing several times, mostly because it is part of who he is, not because I’m fixated on it. I’ve never really wanted to go into my own feelings on here, though. The last time I mentioned it on the other blog, I claimed I had come to terms with it and that the grieving had ended. I suspected even as I wrote that months ago that I would be proven wrong. Now that I’m pregnant again, I have been.

I’ve discovered that PJ’s prematurity has left me paranoid about a repeat occurence. I have been ultra careful about doing anything that might hurt the baby, mostly things that I did wrong last time. Even though I recognize that I did not cause PJ to be born early, it makes me feel better to think I might be preventing it from happening again by doing the few things I can, especially when they’re difficult. For example, prenatal vitamins made me gag last time, so I stopped taking them altogether by the time the first trimester ended. Now I take them every day, regardless of the nausea. I know it’s not changing anything really, but it makes me feel like I’m doing everything in my power to keep this baby healthy.

The issues with the prematurity have spread beyond just worrying about this pregnancy, though. I’m starting to realize that even now, after eighteen months, I feel like I missed out on something special by having PJ early. I no longer look at PJ and immediately think “preemie” or “special needs child” or even “miracle child,” but when I think back to those early weeks and months in particular, or see him around another child his own age, I can’t help but remember all that again.

I wonder if we will ever be able to recapture that feeling of normalcy in relation to PJ that we felt for about two weeks before the pregnancy started to have all sorts of complications. I feel robbed of a normal pregnancy, a normal birth, a normal newborn experience. Even now, I’m robbed of a normal toddler, instead celebrating every halting independent step, when most eighteen-month-olds are running all over the place. I was mistakenly expecting things to return to normal when the harrowing NICU experience ended. Then I thought maybe when he turned one, his prematurity wouldn’t affect him as much anymore. Now I don’t know when that will happen. Maybe it never will; maybe he will always have to remind everyone that he was born early and that’s why they shouldn’t expect as much from him.

Most of all, I think I’m mourning for the shattered dreams I had of the perfect pregnancy, birth, and newborn experience. I look at PJ sometimes and see the toddler I thought he would be by now, and it saddens me that he’s not that phantom kid. I don’t love him any less for his special-ness–if anything I love him more for it–but that other kid from my dreams continues to haunt me now a full year and a half later. How long will that ghost follow me around? Will he be standing in the background mournfully shaking his head when we get the diagnosis of PJ’s ADD or other learning disability that is so common for preemies? Will he show off his all A report card when I celebrate B’s and C’s for PJ? Will he stare in wonder whenever the subject of prematurity comes up in conversation, glad he has nothing to contribute, while PJ and I try to decide whether to tell our own story?

I love the life I have with PJ, prematurity and all, but sometimes I wish I could experience life as a “normal” mom for just a day or a week, to see what things are like to be considered normal again.

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