I was given a copy of “Preemie Parents” by a friend of mine who thought I would get an insight into how spirituality and faith can help parents who are dealing with a child with severe medical problems. I do have two children, however they are both healthy and I have never experienced anything remotely close to what the author, Tami C. Gaines has. Although this book is targeted specifically to the parents of premature babies, I couldn’t stop reading it and was amazed at not only the strength shown by Ms. Gaines, but also how she has used her experience as an opportunity for growth and learning.
Tami C. Gaines was a normal, working mom, married and the parent of two children ages eight and five. At thirty-eight years old, it was assumed that she and her husband would have no more children between them, and this proved to be true. When Tami’s obstetrician confirmed that she was pregnant (with twins no less) her husband decided that he did not want any part of being a father again. He left Tami to not only deal with the pregnancy on her own, but also to look after her two young children. This began Tami’s journey – pregnant with twins, a single mother of two, soon unable to work and saddled with all the problems and challenges that would accompany those circumstances. On top of all this, her pregnancy was not “normal” and her twins would be delivered by C-section prematurely at twenty-five weeks – practically the earliest that allows any chance at all for survival.
In her book, Tami does provide some of the details of the medical issues that both she and her babies faced. The actual facts of these medical issues and complications are really secondary to her story. Every child is different, and a problem for one may not be a problem for another. Similarly, solutions for one may not work appropriately for another. Tami emphasizes that as a parent of a premature baby, although you will be required to become very knowledgeable, you do not need to have a PhD in obstetrics. She provides excellent tips (and more importantly, warnings) on how and where to get your information and how to use it wisely. The doctors, nurses and support staff have been trained to deal with premature babies – your job is to understand the what, when, where, why and how in anything regarding your baby (and you).
This book is written as a blueprint of ideas, suggestions and ways to cope for parents who are in a similar situation. She provides 26 topics, from A to Z ranging from “Advocate” to “Zero In: Focus”. Her single biggest piece of advice is to read what she has written, use what you can “at that moment” and file the other chapters away until the time comes when you need them. This is what she means by “Zero In: Focus” on getting your baby home. Your ultimate goal is to get your baby to the point where he/she can come home with you. When that goal is forgotten, distractions will threaten to take over and you will become frustrated with your progress.
There are also several chapters in the book that will assist you with helping yourself. A major issue that she stresses repeatedly is that you MUST look after yourself first and foremost. This (in my opinion) is exactly what Jesus meant in Matthew VII – “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considereth not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and behold a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” When you have run yourself into the ground, you will not be able to “Zero In: Focus” on your ultimate goal. You will not be able to think clearly, you will take “shortcuts” to save time and you may accept decisions made by others without carefully considering all your options. This is a dangerous position to be in and not only will it endanger your health, it will endanger the safety and care that your baby deserves. Tami’s book will give you many tips on nutrition, exercise, rest, sleep, taking a break when necessary and one of the biggest things you can do – accept help gratefully when it is offered. If it isn’t offered, be selfish for yourself and your baby and ASK FOR IT!
The resource section at the end of the book (although the whole book is a resource section) covers some of the topics that you may not have even thought about. Support and non-support from family and friends, alienation, the financial impact (which will be significant), online resources and websites, exercise tips and more are covered so that your learning will continue. This book should not be your only source of information for your experience with your premature baby.
I found this book to be very helpful, and as I read it I thought of the many different scenarios where Tami’s advice could be put into practice. Targeted to the parents of premature babies, this book would also help the siblings of premature babies, teenagers facing their first pregnancy, grandparents, friends, close relatives and anyone associated with someone who is dealing with a premature pregnancy. The time to read this book is BEFORE the birth of your baby so you can put into practice the things that Tami has suggested. She admits that she was in a fog for the first three weeks after the birth of her twins, and until she made the conscious decision to “be present” for her babies, that time was lost.
The book is very well laid out, and the colour, graphics, illustrations and bonus “Tami Time” additions make the book interesting and visually appealing. Currently there is no e-book version available, however I would hope that the publisher will soon make this an option. With the amount of things a new mother has to keep track of, another book to carry around (no matter how helpful it is) may not hit the priority list and could easily be mislaid. An e-book reader would help solve this problem as they fit easily in a purse or handbag and are less likely to be left lying around. Should you decide to give this book as a gift make sure that you know the person reasonably well. Not all parents may be accepting of the fact that their baby may be premature, unless a doctor has already advised them of this possibility.
Tami Gaines has written a comprehensive guide to assist the parents of premature babies from the perspective of someone who has been there. Although the experience of each parent will be different, using this book to get you through the feelings of frustration, fear, anger, helplessness, hope, faith (and sleepless nights) will help to ease the journey. Tami has taken what could have been a paralyzing set of circumstances and used it to build her strength and courage to deal with practically ANYTHING that may come her way. YOU can do the same.
Laughter and love,