Inside the Life of A Preemie Parent + Book G!veaway

baby, Kasey Mathews, PreemieWelcome back to Risky Baby Business here at More Cowbell! We talk about moms and babies every Saturday over here, particularly those of the high-risk variety.

If you want to catch up on the previous posts in this series, click here.

Today, I’ve got Kasey Mathews sharing the nitty gritty details of living through her daughter Andie’s premature birth. I asked Kasey TONS of questions to gain insight into this birth condition that’s on the rise. 

Kasey’s here to answer your  questions and give away a copy of this amazing memoir. (I’m reading it and it ROCKS!)

You have two children – tell us about the difference in their births.

They were completely different. Tucker was born with the help of a midwife, on his due date. We cuddled and bonded right away. He latched right on and I breastfed him for 11 months — from birth to sippy cup. Andie was an emergency C-section at 25 weeks, after a mostly uneventful pregnancy.

How did you begin bonding with Andie if she was in the NICU?

First of all, I was in 100% denial – what I realize now was stark fear – and I didn’t want  to bond with the baby. I just wanted the entire experience to be happening to someone else. Fear of her dying overrode everything else.

I was in the hospital for four days, recovering and worrying about getting home to my 2 year old. When we went up to the NICU to see Andie and say goodbye, all those maternal feelings came flooding in and I completely lost it. I freaked out about going home and leaving the baby there.

How far do you live from the hospital?

We’re about an hour away from the hospital where Andie stayed in Boston. When we finally got checked out and home from the hospital, they called the house a few hours later. Andie’s stomach was distending and they discovered a hole in her intestine. We had to turn around and go right back to the hospital.

With that commute, how often did you go visit Andie in the hospital? Did you have a day job at the time?

I was really lucky. At the time, I’d been staying home with my 2 year-old, Tucker. It was just me, Tucker, and our dog Cody most days. When Andie was born, I put my two year old into daycare and went to the hospital every day for about 4 hours.

How did you interact with Andie at the NICU?

I didn’t know what to say to her and I was afraid to touch her. My prior experience as a teacher came out and I took books and read to her. Knowing what I know now, I’d have done Reiki (energy healing) and laid my hands on her. But this was 11 years ago and there weren’t many resources available to me.  I really didn’t know what to do.

Were you able to breastfeed Andie?

I tried for two months to make milk for her. I pumped every two hours, no matter what. I set an alarm and woke up to pump. I took Brewer’s yeast and fenugreek and other teas and herbs designed to product milk and I didn’t produce a single drop.

How did it make you feel and how did you give yourself permission to stop?

The other mothers were showing up in the NICU with coolers filled with milk and I felt like such a failure as a mom because I tried for two months and produced nothing. The lactation consultants encouraged me to keep going but my family begged me to stop after two months. Pumping every two hours was wearing me out.

You form an amazing relationship with the NICU nurses and they were the ones who began encouraging me to take better care of myself.

What suggestions did the nurses make?

They recommended that I take a day off. I’ll never forget that day. It was my first day off in months. I stayed home with my two year-old and wore my pajamas all day. I read a book while he napped. I did the things that I’d done before life became focused around daily trips to the NICU.

In last week’s post, you mentioned Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as common for parents of preemies. Did you or your husband experience it?

I think we both did. You think you’re doing fine handling things and then something comes along that sends you over the edge. For me, it was the swine flu epidemic. Andie was almost 9 years old at that point, but I was insane with worry.

My husband, Lee, always seemed to take everything in stride but it was during that time that we realized we needed help. We were at one of Andie’s soccer games and we’d all agreed not to shake hands after the games during that epidemic. The kids were dancing around and Lee saw Andie reach for a water bottle that wasn’t hers and take a sip. He lunged and knocked it out of her hand. It was completely out of character for him.

What sort of therapy helped your PTSD?

EMDR was a huge life-changing gift. It was so helpful to me.

Note: EMDR was originally discovered in working with veterans with PTSD and has a success rate of over 70%. Here’s more about EMDR, including how to find a therapist: http://emdria.org/.

What is your favorite thing that’s happened since PREEMIE has released?

The letters that I get from other moms. As I say in the book, I longed for a compassionate woman to sit on the end of my bed and keep me from feeling so alone. When a mother tells me my story is like watching a slideshow of their  life, I know it was worth it to write it down.

A sneak peek at PREEMIE:

After my daughter was born, I longed for a compassionate woman who had been in my shoes to sit on the end of my hospital bed and share her story with me. It wouldn’t matter how different or similar our stories were, just to have someone who understood what it was like to have a pregnancy end halfway through, resulting in a baby that didn’t resemble any baby I’d ever seen. I wanted to see her nod in understanding as we discussed the daunting task of raising, loving, and believing in a child born at 25 weeks.

That woman never arrived.

Please join me in heaping the comment love on Kasey! As high risk as my own pregnancy was, I’ve realized as I read PREEMIE that my eyes were wide open about the risks I was facing. Andie’s birth was full of constant (unexpected) change, and new challenges. My hat is off to Kasey and Lee – this journey is ROUGH.

p.s. I highly recommend this book – I’m on the edge of my seat reading it!

Do you have questions for Kasey or memories about your own birth experience to share? Kasey will be giving a copy of PREEMIE away to one lucky commenter today so don’t be shy!

Jenny

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Kasey Mathews is a mother of two – one a preemie and one not.  Her son, Tucker, now 13, was born on his due date weighing and even 8 pounds.  Her daughter Andie, now 11, was born at 25 weeks, weighing 1 pound 11 ounces. 

Kasey is a writer and author of the memoir, Preemie:  Lessons in Love, Life and Motherhood (Hatherleigh Press, 2012).  Kasey considers herself a “student in the lessons of everyday life,” and regularly observes and finds unexpected meaning in seemingly ordinary events.  Her writing and life-lessons can be found on her website www.kaseymathews.com.

About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestormblog.com). Write on!
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23 Responses to Inside the Life of A Preemie Parent + Book G!veaway

  1. Such an amazing story! And I’m so glad you two were able to connect via blogosphere. I know Kasey’s book will help so many women, and I am proud to say she has become the compassionate voice she longed to hear.

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    • Kasey mathews says:

      Thank you so much, Renee! It is really happening and the letters I’m receiving from other preemie moms make me feel like I am there on the end of their beds. I truly mean it when I say that you and your connecting ways (case and point with Jenny) have been a huge part of this. Thank you. Enjoy every moment of your boy’s big weekend! Have you got a set of great dancing shoes? XO

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  2. When I finally took my 2.5 lb baby home from the hospital, he was still under 5 pounds. In the early days, when I took him out for walks, snuggled into my chest in a Baby Bjorn, I was approached by women with grown children who had been micro-preemies. They all told me how seeing my tiny guy took them back to their early days with their tiny babies. I realized then that I would always be the mother of a preemie.
    The hospital where my preemies were born has a NICU buddy program where parents whose kids had been in the NICU volunteer to talk with parents of babies in the NICU. Families are matched based on gestational age and health of the babies, so there is a connection between the experiences. It is a fabulous gift to parents dealing with all the emotions that are part of having babies in the hospital.

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    • Kasey mathews says:

      Kate, when you wrote “I realized I’d always be the mother of a preemie” chills ran up my spine. That’s it! They grow and heal and move further and further away from their “preemie” status, but we’re always looking at them through that preemie filter. As long as it’s not limiting or restrictive, I think it’s a blessing because we never take these children for granted and know that their being here is a huge gift, speaking for myself at least! I LOVE the idea of a buddy program and think it’s the best resource when available to parents. There is a national group out of Austin, Texas, Hand to Hold, who offers this, they call it peeer to peer support, but same deal, matching similar stories, gestational age dates etc It’s free and available to anyone! All that a preemie parent needs to do is call or email at http://handtohold.org. Thanks so much for your insightful comment, Kate. How old is your guy now?

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  3. What an incredible journey for you and your family. I have two kids – both born at healthy weights, one natural, the other an emergency c-section. I can’t even begin to imagine your fear at delivering a preemie. The amount of anxiety I had just at having the emergency c-section was enough to send me over the edge of sanity. My husband was a preemie – born at just under 3 pounds. He’s six foot, 170 pounds. They do grow and get better, but those first few moments/days/months are harrowing. I’m glad the nurses made you take a day off. That probably refreshed your spirit more than anything else. Congrats on the book. I hope it brings comfort to many moms who were in your situation.

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    • Thanks for such validation, Tameri. It really doesn’t matter the severity of our situations does it? When it’s OUR kid at risk, when we don’t know if he/she is ok, it is enough to make us go insane! Hearing successful preemie stories like your husband’s was what kept us going and gave us hope! Thank you! XO

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  4. K.B. Owen says:

    Kasey, thank you for opening your heart and your story to the women who will benefit from it most. Glad to hear that Andie is thriving! (And they always wind up drinking out of the wrong bottle, or doing exactly the worst thing that makes you crazy, right? LOL!).

    Here’s to enjoying our kids!🙂

    Kathy

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    • It is truly my pleasure, Kathy! You said it, they do somehow always manage to do that one thing (or several) that puts us over the edge! Raising kids is a wild world and a wondrous journey! They sure are amazing teachers!!

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  5. Angela says:

    Thank you for sharing your story Kasey. My daughter was born at 24.2 weeks and I felt the same way about another woman to understand my story. Lucky for me, I found other MP moms in the NICU. We’ve formed our own informal support group now I guess🙂

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    • Angela, I’m soooo glad you found other micro-preemie moms. That must have made all the difference for you knowing you weren’t alone. How old is your daughter today?

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      • Angela says:

        She is 2mo adjusted. I had a 25min drive one way to the hospital and it was tiring. At one point, we’d make 2-3 trips every day..so exhausting we eventually moved closer to the hospital. I can only imagine what the 1hr drive must have done to y’all.

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  6. Lynn Kelley says:

    Oh my, I can’t imagine how hard it was for you, Kasey. I’m so glad your daughter is healthy and thriving. What a blessing. It’s wonderful that you’re sharing your story with others because I’m sure it will help them cope with the challenges they’re facing.

    All four of my pregnancies were full term, but with the third one, I started going into premature labor six weeks early. They gave me meds, which prevented it, but even as far along as I was, I remember how worried I was. It’s hard for mothers not to constantly fret over their kids even when they’re healthy, but the ordeal you went through (and others like you) has to be unbearable at times. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

    Jenny, thanks for introducing us to Kasey and her book PREEMIE.

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    • Hi Lynn! Your comment reminds me of the conversation I had with my Aunt after my full-term, healthy son was born. Like most new moms, I was awe-struck and terrified and asked her how old her kids were when she stopped worrying. Her reply – “Well Peter is 35 and Jeff 37, so when I stop, I’ll let you know.” Ahhhh! The joys and burdens of motherhood! So glad you had four full-term pregnancies. I truly have come to appreciate what a miracle EVERY birth is! XO

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  7. Karen McFarland says:

    My husband and I lived an hour away from any hospital when our two sons were born. I can’t imagine the exhaustion you experienced driving back and forth for that amount of time and after a “C” section. Wow. PTSD is right! As I mentioned to Jenny last week, our niece was born at 24 weeks. It was touch and go for a while. It was hard on the whole family. But is especially hard on Mom an Dad. Making the decision to stop trying to pump must have been so hard for you. Not being able to nurse after having such a wonderful experience with your older child must have killed you. (With my second child I craved beer. Before that I didn’t even like beer. But it helped make milk and relaxed me enough to help my milk let down. I swear he was an all day sucker! LOL! Just passing that info along just in case others are looking for suggestions.) Congratulations on your book and I hope that you and your family are enjoying a peaceful, happy life together. You deserve it!🙂

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  8. Hi Karen! Yes, an hour away post-c-section was a killer. I wasn’t allowed to drive so family, friends and neighbors all took turns driving me in to the hospital. The inability to nurse was devastating, and believe me, I tried everything including a pint of Guinness every night! The good news is now that Andie is big and healthy I get to drink my beer strictly for fun! Thanks for your comment and much love to your niece and family! XO

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  9. Jenny Hansen says:

    And the winner is TAMERI ETHERTON!! I just went to Random.org and you are it, sister. I gave Kasey your address and the book will be on it’s way this week.🙂

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    • Whooohoooo! I’m donning my tiara and having a parade to celebrate my win! Thank you, thank you so much! This post touched my heart and I’m looking forward to reading Kasey’s book.

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  10. Very moving story Kasey. I can’t imagine. One of my BFFs had triplets at 30 weeks and it was nerve racking and heart wrenching to watch. I simply cannot imagine. I know your book with sooth and comfort millions of women – thank you for having the courage to share your story!
    Tks for introducing us to her and her story Jenny!

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