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!
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.