Note: I modelled this after an essay
written by Kathy Lyn Harris titled “Dear Moms of Adopted Children.” I first read it on Thursday
and then shared it among my friends. It’s been on my mind ever since. (Kathy’s
post was inspired by Lea Grover whose essay titled, “Dear
Less-Than-Perfect Mom” ran in the Huffington Post on April 30th).
Kathy’s post made me think about moms like me whose path to motherhood was complicated
by premature birth
Dear Mom of a Premature Child,
I met you in the NICU. I met you through Early Intervention.
I met you at my daughter’s school. You were my massage therapist. You are my
neighbor. I met you on purpose. I met you by accident.
I knew you right away. I recognized the uneasiness,
the fear, the wondering. Because
everything about your situation was out of your control. You could not stop the
premature birth of your child.
Maybe someone told you it was in God’s plans for you to have
a premature child and God never gives us more than we can handle. Maybe someone told you about what happened to their friend’s preemie. Maybe they told you there
was nothing to worry about because medicine has come so far- your child will be
fine. Maybe they were wrong. Maybe they
were right. Maybe you ignored them.
Maybe you were on bed rest for months. Maybe you carried
twins. Maybe your water broke early for no reason. Maybe a car accident induced
early labor. Maybe you conceived through fertility treatments. Maybe conception
Your child was born eleven weeks early. Fourteen weeks
early. Sixteen weeks early. Your child was early but healthy. Your child was
born with a heart condition. Your child was born with her intestines outside
her body. Your child died after only two days. Your child spent her first six
months in a hospital. Your child nearly died on Mother’s Day. Your child went
home after only four weeks.
I know about all the books you read. The ones everyone reads
that tell us what to expect- but you never expected this. You also read about
dealing with lengthy hospitalizations, disabilities caused by premature birth. Facing
the death of a preemie. About cognitive
delays, language deficiencies. About preemie support groups.
I know how you got up every day and faced that day with
determination. How you kangarooed your son for hours. How you loved your daughter from behind glass. How you flinched
every time the alarms sounded to alert nurses that your son stopped breathing.
How you held your breath as you watched him turn blue and prayed the nurses could
get him to breathe again.
I’ve seen you in front of the hospital watching the pregnant
woman wishing you were still pregnant. I know the pain of losing the future of
a full-term pregnancy. The loss of a “normal” birth. The scars of a classical
C-section you never wanted to have. The pain of having to pump your breast milk
for months on end instead of nursing your child who lays there in an incubator
fed through a tube.
I know the fear of loss. I’ve seen you look down at your newborn
infant, wondering if she’ll survive.
I know the never-ending tests. Head ultrasounds, eye exams,
heal sticks every day. You avoided caffeine your entire pregnancy only to learn
your preemie was being pumped with caffeine through his IV.
I know about the friends who don’t know what to say to you. “Congratulations?”
But your child may not survive. This child before you who is still covered in
lanugo hair and has undeveloped nipples.
And then, for many of you, I watched the day your child went
home for the first time, 7 weeks, 14 weeks, 22 weeks after birth. You brought
him home, happy to have your child in your arms, yet afraid he might stop
I know that bliss laced with fear. That guarded, yet hopeful
moment when you were finally together as a family.
I’ve watched you cringe as others brush off your lingering anxieties
only to tell you everything is fine because, “Look at her now!” Everything’s
wonderful. Except it isn’t. You were traumatized. You still live in fear.
I’ve seen you worry when your child is evaluated for Early
Intervention. Is her language delayed? Will he ever walk? Is he learning disabled?
You dutifully complete every task, exercise, language activity the experts give
you hoping to avoid long-term disability. You cry yourself to sleep at night
I’ve seen you answer all of the tough questions, the
questions that have to do with why her head is shaped funny, or why he needs a hearing
aide, or why she can’t walk even though she’s already two. I’ve watched you
field perhaps the hardest question of all, “Why was she born so early?” A
question you cannot answer because you still blame yourself for the betrayal of
a body that couldn’t complete a basic human function.
But most of all, I want you to know that I’ve watched you
with your child. Seen your fierce determination to get him the services he
needs. Watched you read aloud to her every single day since she entered this
world. Watched you help him transition into school life with the least
difficulty possible. Watched you help her learn to jump after hours and hours
of practice so she can play with the other kids.
I’ve seen your love. Your undeniable, mama-bear love. You will
do whatever you need for your child. You love this child with an intensity no-one
can break. You are the mom of a preemie and you are fierce.
Happy Mother’s Day.
Oh, how I love these sisters of mine. I’m so thankful they’re both here for most of this month. #family
The volcanic island of Salina is my husband’s ancestral home on his father’s side. We first visited there back in 2012 and were able to track down the marriage license for his great-grandparents. (Read about that experience here: http://www.michellecusolito.com/blog/2012/07/family-roots.html?rq=Salina). On this trip, we visited the cemetery and photographed all of the graves with the family names. Now we need to do some detective work to trace them all back.
The island has been called magical by some and I have to say I agree. Everywhere you turn is a spectacular view. The water is warm and clear, so swimming is a joy. And if you’re on the Malfa side of the island, you can watch glowing orange lava flow from the volcanic island called Stromboli every night. (It’s the cone shaped island in the photos 3 and 8. Just 4 hours after we left, Stromboli had a violent eruption that killed one tourist and sent about 30 other tourists jumping into the sea). #travel #nature #volcano #familyhistory
Flora and Fauna on Salina.
Salina is one of the Aeolian Islands just north of Sicily and was our final destination before returning home. Here’s an assortment of plants (and one animal) we saw while there. #Nature #travel
While we were in Sicily, we went up Mt. Etna- the largest and most active volcano in Europe. We drove most of the way up, then took a cable car, and finally, a Unimog took us up to the newest craters at about 10,000 feet (3000 m). The temperatures were much cooler at that higher altitude, which was a welcome break from the heat wave that covered most of Western Europe that week. We saw several ladybugs (ladybirds) and learned that in July, the mountaintop is orange from the number of ladybugs present. #travel #nature #volcano
Taormina is set into a hillside, so many of the houses have spectacular views of the sea. Our rental was no exception. Taormina is also home to The Greek Theatre which overlooks both the gorgeous coastline and the cone of Mt. Etna. Construction on the theatre likely started in the third century BCE and was later renovated by the Romans, probably during the rule of Trajan or Hadrian in the second century CE. What’s really cool is that shows still happen there regularly in the summer months. They were setting up for one when we visited. The roads in Taormina are often steep and always narrow, even on two-way streets. Drivers spend much of their time backing up or looking for a place to get out of the way so cars can pass. #travel #history
(Image of a flower on Gozo)
Lest you think our vacation was all fun and games, we’re going to take a break from our regularly scheduled program to talk about the less fun aspects of our recent trip.
1. My son got stung by a fire worm while we were SCUBA diving.
2. We had to bring my daughter to the E.R. in Malta when she developed a whole body rash with redness and swelling in her face/ lips. (The rash lasted for a week). 3. My good SLR camera bag (complete with camera and lenses) got left in a taxi.
4. The mosquitos are on steroids or something because we all got welts unlike from the mosquitoes here. I’m STILL scratching more than a week later.
5. My husband and daughter came down with a rather unpleasant stomach bug within hours of getting home.
FYI: Everyone is fine now and my camera was recovered.
None of this was fun. We obviously didn’t want it to happen. But so much of travel is about attitude. You have to look on the bright side. Neither the sting nor the rash were life threatening. (And that ER trip cost us a grand total of 47.50). My camera was returned, but even if it hadn’t been, it’s just “stuff.” We were there for experiences.
These stories aren’t unique. The last time we went to Sicily, we all got scabies. When my husband and I were in Niger with my sister, we could have been seriously injured (or worse) when our car broke down in the bush and a whole bunch of scary stuff ensued. (It’s WAY too long of a story for insta). In Morocco, we got a very bad case of “Travelers D” while on a camel trek. I could go on.
None of this dissuades us from travel. Most of this stuff could happen to us anywhere, even right here at home.
And plus... we end up with good stories to tell when we get back.
Our final day in the country of Malta was spent on the main island (also called Malta) in Valletta, the capital. I found the architecture particularly interesting. And, how could you not love the blue of the water and sky when seen through that arch? #travel
Thanks to @Middleborough Public Library for hosting me today. I love this mural outside of the children’s room! (Photo taken by my sister). #FlyingDeep
A final sampling of photos from Gozo.
The country of Malta has a long and interesting history. There are Neolithic sites that date back more than 5, 000 years on both Gozo and Malta and evidence of various conquerors from the Phoenicians to the Romans to the Arabs can be felt there. In the late 1700’s, Napoleon took over the islands only to be defeated by the British shortly after. The British ruled until 1964 when Malta became an independent nation. As a result, the Maltese drive on the left side of the road and there are two national languages: English and Maltese.
First three photos: Gjantija Temples, UNESCO World Heritage Site, dating from 3600 BCE #travel #history #nature
Capers and caper berries.
Did you know that the little things we eat called capers are actually the buds of this plant before they bloom? The best ones are reportedly the small ones that are harvested early in the morning before the blazing sun gets up. Most of the capers for sale here in the U.S. are preserved in brine, but I prefer the ones preserved in straight sea salt. Salina is known for these and even has a caper festival in early June.
Caper plants grow all over Gozo, Malta, Sicily, and Salina. The plants especially like rocky edges. If you let the flower bloom, the berry that follows can also be preserved in brine and eaten like the capers (second to last photo. Sorry it’s blurry). #travel #mediterraneanfood