Once upon a time – okay, a mere fourish years ago – I gave birth to a preemie. She was only six weeks early but it was the dead of winter in New England, and that meant every public indoor hangout I could think of was teeming with cold and flu germs along with very real risk of RSV. So while all the other new moms in my town were walking around the mall, hitting the library, and meeting up in coffee shops, I was stuck indoors, all on my lonesome, with a newborn who was still on the fence when it came to the whole suck-swallow-breathe thing.
Mom’s groups? Were just not an option for the first few months because of the germ factor. There was literally no opportunity to meet moms. Once spring rolled around and my daughter was bigger, I was able to meet moms in the local mom’s group because my daughter was a 34-week preemie rather than, say, a 27-week preemie.
But when you’re the mom of a very early preemie (or a baby with medical issues or a special needs kid) mom’s groups may simply not be a good fit. You have to be careful when you meet moms. For example, when you have a preemie, immature lungs and a weak or non-existent immune system can literally make mom’s groups a dangerous day out. And moms whose kids have medical issues or disabilities, related to prematurity or otherwise, can feel left out or singled out in mom’s groups that are open to all families.
The fact is that prematurity can make meeting other moms harder. How many mothers do you suppose end up forming their mommy networks right there in hospital mom’s groups and other meet-up groups for new moms? I’m thinking a lot – and I’m also thinking I’m very lucky that my daughter eventually grew big enough and strong enough to handle the infection vector that is other babies’ runny noses. For some preemies, that level of immune response doesn’t come until years later, and that means years of staying away from the mall, the library, and mommy coffee time for a long time.
Luckily, though, one-on-one hang-outs with moms and kids who understand the precautions preemie moms have to take to keep their babies and children safe are okay. Groups like Graham’s Foundation, which supports parents of preemies in a variety of ways, can help moms of preemies connect with each other. Some hospitals have special preemie mom groups, but these are still relatively rare if your hospital isn’t one with a Level IV NICU. Even just blogging about your prematurity experience can help you make virtual mom friends, which is sometimes almost as good as getting together for coffee.
Of course, even when you check out all the available channels, meeting preemie moms and preemie-friendly families isn’t always easy. That’s part of why when Mom Meet Mom launches, prematurity will be a part of the criteria we use to help moms meet other moms. So stay tuned, and if you’re a preemie mom, don’t let the rollercoaster get you down!