Category: Preemie Parent Power
Recently, I have become very good friends with Tami C Gaines, the author of Preemie Parents. In her book, Tami shares her lessons learned as the mother of twins born at twenty five weeks into her pregnancy. Tami and I share the same desire to learn and grow through adversity and I am inspired by her story. As I watch my friend walk in her greatness, I am reminded of a lost chapter in my own. It is one that I seldom share or discuss and until recently, I never realized that this lost chapter in my story is one that has defined so much of who I have become today.
Some of you may know that I am the mother of two children. My daughter, the “Little Diva” is twelve and my son, “The Teen” is sixteen. What many of you do not know, is that I am also the mother of a “Little Angel” who left this world before she ever lived. Her name was Emma Turner Porte and on April thirteenth, I will celebrate her fourteenth birthday.
I recall with sadness, the day fourteen years when I noticed something was just not right. I was in my twenty-fifth week of pregnancy and had been feeling simply fabulous and excited about welcoming my second child. On this day however, I noticed that the blissful movement and stir of life within me had stopped. No kicking, no squirming from my baby. Just silence. I intuitively knew before I was told that something was very, very wrong.
Testing was ordered and I was sent to the hospital, as I was reassured that all was probably well. I recall my intuition telling me that was not so, yet hoping and praying it was. During the sonogram, the monitor was turned away from me and as the probe was rolled over my baby within, the technician’s face confirmed by biggest fear. Then doctor spoke the words that I thought I would never hear. “Dabney, I am so sorry. Your baby has died.”
I was not prepared. My body shook and trembled and I cried from the depth of my soul. I had never experienced such emotional and physical pain. It was as if the sounds of my sobs were coming from someone else. I clung to my swollen belly and cried for hours. In that moment, I learned what true loss felt like.
As I exhausted myself from crying, I looked within my soul for energy to go on. I knew I needed to take this journey of grief in a manner that would allow me to experience the pain fully so that I would find success in letting go and moving on. Even fourteen years ago, I knew I did not want to be a victim of adversity.
I delivered my sweet Emma two days later. We held her lifeless body in heated towels as I sang to her, kissed her and told her how sorry I was that she would not be joining us here. I still recall how beautiful she was. She was physically perfect and looked much like my twelve year old daughter looked on the day of her birth. When they took her from my arms, a piece of my soul went with her and I physically felt pain in my heart. The word Heartache now truly had meaning to me.
My journey beyond that day was more difficult than any journey I have taken since. There was the funeral, the maternity leave without a baby, the empty nursery, the wave of pain and the challenge of moving ahead looming in front of me.
Each spring, as the tulips and daffodils start to bloom and signs of new life surround us, I am carried back to memories of Emma. I think of how old she would be, what her passions would have been and what her laugh would have sounded like. I can clearly picture her when I close my eyes as I connect with her spirit that has quietly and privately surrounded me each day over the years.
For years, I have celebrated Emma’s unlived life privately, as many do not understand what if is like experience a death of a child in the manner in which I did. It is as though because her life was not lived outside of my womb, it was not lived at all.
Today I am choosing to celebrate out loud the gift that was given to me for those brief twenty five weeks. For you see, it is today that I realize that the pain of my past has lead me to exactly the place I belong. As my first experience facing true adversity, I challenged myself to walk through it and in doing so; I was led to this present moment.
During the funeral, words were spoken to offer peace. Many told me there was a reason for my loss, that God had his purpose. I was told in the end, we would all see the lesson Emma taught us. The words whispered to me on the day I lay my daughter to rest with my Grandmother, are the ones I recall most.
Only a daughter of yours would be sweet enough to never live, so that she could teach lessons to us all
Today, I now know the lessons I learned are ones I share through my work today. Adversity can in fact define us. It is up to us to choose how. In revisiting this lost chapter of my life that I seldom turn to, I smile. It is with a mother’s love that I realize it is my own child Emma, who taught me how to be a Diva. Through losing her, I realized the importance of getting better and not bitter when faced with a life changing moment of adversity, loss and pain. In the end, I became stronger and embraced my power. Fourteen years ago I started to walk in my magnificence.
I celebrate Emma for her gifts and thank her for teaching me a lesson long ago. It is my daughter who taught me the many lessons I would need to be prepared for future adversity. I believe it is Emma that sprinkles Diva Dust on me when I need it, giving me my sparkle. Today, I celebrate my most precious angel for giving me my Diva Wings and helping me soar.
xoxo Happy Birthday my Sweet Emma xoxo
Stress is a natural outcome of dealing with a premature birth. In Preemie Parents®, we discuss the importance of dealing with stress. Some of them are:
- Drinking too much
- Overeating or undereating
- Zoning out for hours in front of the TV or computer
- Withdrawing from friends, family, and activities
- Using pills or drugs to relax
- Sleeping too much
- Filling up every minute of the day to avoid facing problems
- Taking out your stress on others (lashing out, angry outbursts, physical violence)
And then they offer us some very specific ways to deal with stress. There are several steps to dealing with stress in their formula:
Identify the sources of stress in your life
Stress management starts with identifying the sources of stress in your life. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Your true sources of stress aren’t always obvious, and it’s all too easy to overlook your own stress-inducing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Sure, you may know that you’re constantly worried about work deadlines. But maybe it’s your procrastination, rather than the actual job demands, that leads to deadline stress.
To identify your true sources of stress, look closely at your habits, attitude, and excuses:
- Do you explain away stress as temporary (“I just have a million things going on right now”) even though you can’t remember the last time you took a breather?
- Do you define stress as an integral part of your work or home life (“Things are always crazy around here”) or as a part of your personality (“I have a lot of nervous energy, that’s all”).
- Do you blame your stress on other people or outside events, or view it as entirely normal and unexceptional?
Until you accept responsibility for the role you play in creating or maintaining it, your stress level will remain outside your control.
Start a stress journal
A stress journal can help you identify the regular stressors in your life and the way you deal with them. Each time you feel stressed, keep track of it in your journal. As you keep a daily log, you will begin to see patterns and common themes. Write down:
- What caused your stress (make a guess if you’re unsure).
- How you felt, both physically and emotionally.
- How you acted in response.
- What you did to make yourself feel better.
Look at how you currently cope with stress
Think about the ways you currently manage and cope with stress in your life. Your stress journal can help you identify them. Are your coping strategies healthy or unhealthy, helpful or unproductive? Unfortunately, many people cope with stress in ways that compound the problem.
Learning healthier ways to manage stress
If your methods of coping with stress aren’t contributing to your greater emotional and physical health, it’s time to find healthier ones. There are many healthy ways to manage and cope with stress, but they all require change. You can either change the situation or change your reaction. When deciding which option to choose, it’s helpful to think of the four As: avoid, alter, adapt, or accept.
Since everyone has a unique response to stress, there is no “one size fits all” solution to managing it. No single method works for everyone or in every situation, so experiment with different techniques and strategies. Focus on what makes you feel calm and in control.
There will be more to follow in future blogs!
Tami C. Gaines, the mother of four children (including preemie twins), has achieved national recognition as an advocate and spokesperson for preemie parents. In addition, she has an accomplished background as a marketing and business strategist, motivational speaker, and trainer. In the business world, her impressive client list has included such companies as The Marriott Corporation.... Read More
The Preemie Parents Foundation is a non-profit 501(C)3- organization dedicated to providing the parents and caregivers of premature babies with the tools, resources and support needed to take this unexpected journey from a place of bewilderment to a place of empowerment.
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