Trial by fire

When my son, my husband and I came home from the hospital, my husband had to make an emergency run to get the foul-tasting supplement Poly Vi Sol, as well as a canister of formula. What business do I have on API Speaks? My son, Peter Gwydion, was born at 28 weeks gestation due to my developing severe preeclampsia. Instead of a third trimester filled with belly casts and pregnancy photos that ended with a beautiful homebirth, we spent two months living in an apartment an hour and a half away from our home while Gwyn worked hard in the NICU.

Obviously, I was totally unprepared for this situation. There’s nothing you can do to prepare for the totally unique experience that you have at a NICU. I came to resent a main principle of attachment parenting – preparing for parenthood, pregnancy and birth. How could I have prepared for our pregnancy and birth, when our pregnancy and birth had become so totally out of my control? How was I supposed to be a decent parent, much less an attached one, from my bed in the ICU while my blood pressure refused to drop? I couldn’t protect my son from all kinds of painful things, like heel sticks and shots. I couldn’t nurse him. I couldn’t even hold him until he was a week old.

Kangaroo care

However, I realize now that what I was prepared to do, thanks to attachment parenting, was be my son’s momma in the best way I could. So, instead of birthing him gently at home, I changed where “home” was so that I could be at the NICU as much as possible. Instead of a babymoon filled with nursing around the clock, I set alarms so that I would wake up and pump at three in the morning, thus keeping my milk supply up.  I insisted that he never be fed straight formula, but that it was mixed with milk to give him necessary extra calories.  I held him skin-to-skin as soon as I could, and reached through his isolette to provide nurturing touch whenever possible to try to counteract all of the jabs and pokes that he received daily. I brought a sling to the NICU, and wore him as soon as he was big enough (at three pounds!).

Snuggling at the NICUI also was prepared to regard my son as an individual, who would have his own unique challenges and triumphs through our sixty-seven day NICU stay. Because I’d already come to know him as Gwyn, who loved orange juice and had an amusing propensity towards kicking right underneath of my bellybutton, it was easier to not be devastated by the myriad horror stories that you are confronted with when you say the word “premature.” Rather than a statistic, we knew that he was Peter Gwydion, and we treated him as such. We sang to him, read to him, just sat with him and celebrated his amazing life and strength together.

Kangaroo care again!

It’s still very painful sometimes that we got such a rough introduction into parenting, painful that my baby didn’t get the beautiful and gentle start that he deserved. I am grateful, though, that he was born into a family who was prepared to adapt to this new, totally unexpected situation. I am grateful to him for all of his hard work.

Asleep at home in JanuaryOur parenting principles of love, respect and support for our amazing, one-of-a-kind son are what brought our family through the NICU intact, albeit changed forever. Now, as I hold my happy, healthy baby, I feel prepared to meet whatever challenges we are faced with through the journey our family is on together.  We parent Peter Gwydion with the same support and love that we have been blessed with for a year, since we found out I was pregnant, and I am so totally grateful.


Author: Kelley

Kelley lives joyously with her Sweet Pea and husband in northern Pennsylvania after surviving preeclampsia and sixty-seven days in a NICU. She hopes to one day be living totally sustainably and cruelty-free while teaching yoga somewhere warm. She loves nursing her baby, the Roomba vacuum cleaner, being an Obamamama, and rocking totally impractical shoes. Her infrequent blogs about life after a NICU are posted at

8 thoughts on “Trial by fire”

  1. You exemplify the most important qualifications for being an Attachment Parent: flexibility and unwavering dedication. Although your early parenting experience is soooo much different then the typical, I think many parents struggle (because of time, money, etc…) and must constantly redefine what successful parenting will look like each and every day.

  2. that was beautiful. your son is blessed with a wonderful family and you have done a fantastic job showing that attachment parenting is a mindset not a list of things you do. thank you so much for sharing.

  3. This is exactly what we had experienced. Our baby was born on the 29th week, we spent 9 weeks at NICU, now he is two years old. A healthy, happy one… It was a difficult start for all of us, but still was a great start… Anyway thank you for sharing your story, it helped us to review what we had gone through :)))))

  4. Your story definitely brought a tear to my eye … my son was born at 39w+1d and still had a 34 day NICU stay. You are right it is nothing that you can prepare yourself for but you have to throw yourself totally into the role of a NICU mommy … My son was my second and so it was hard for me to have him in the NICU needing me and my 2 year old at home. I would head to the NICU at 7AM and not leave until 11PM or midnight and then just go home and crash. I felt so conflicted only spending about 30 minutes a day with my daughter while I got a quick break from my tiny room at the NICU. But I felt that at the time my newborn who was on a ventilator with a hole in his lung fighting to live needed me. I too would spend my few hours at home being woken by an alarm to pump instead of my baby to nurse. That was one of the hardest things for me. I remember sitting up at 3 in the morning to pump crying and wishing my son could be home in my arms. And what’s worse is I had to spend 6 days away from him while I was put back in the hospital for Gall Bladder surgery. Breastfeeding was the hardest thing for me. I was trying for a VBAC and all through my pregnancy I had visions of nursing my son after delivery and sitting on the bed in the hospital with my son in my arms and my daughter at my side getting to know her brother. All those dreams were shattered when we learned about his premature lungs. I really never thought that I would have a baby that I couldn’t hold until he was a week old and being excited just to take his temp because I was getting to touch him … and having to fight with hospital staff just to have my wishes for my child met. Thank you so much for posting this and sharing your story … it definitely brought back some memories … not particularly good memories but the memories that us NICU mommies have to come to terms with.

  5. I nearly cried reading this post. Our birth plans for a gentle home water birth were derailed and we ended up spending the first week (so short compared to many other NICU stays) at the hospital with him.

    You just gotta roll with the punches . . . but we never forget, and never fully finish mourning the loss of autonomous and joyful birth . . .

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