A new baby is a game changer | PostIndependent.com

A new baby is a game changer

When expecting a new baby, believe anyone and everyone who says life will change completely once the child arrives.

Life evolves in so many ways, it’s almost impossible to measure it.

Ask the trillions of moms and dads who have had children early — an estimated 15 million babies are born prematurely each year — and they will confirm that sentiment, 100 times over. Helping support a baby’s life in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), where preemies are cared for, is one experience parents rarely envision themselves having. No parents ever want to really think about it. But once they are in it, they can hardly recall what life was like pre-NICU.

I can confirm that, 1,000 times over.

I’ll be the first to admit I thought I had some struggles in life, especially when it came to problems that turned out to be more about me and less about anyone else. In my early 30s, I went through a divorce. At the time, I thought that was the end of the world. Now it seems more like a first-world problem. I’ve also been laid off from a job and turned down for full-time work I hoped would get me back on financial track. Those also seem like easily solved problems.

At the time, I didn’t see how I could ever work it all out.

These days, problems I experienced as a single white female, especially when it came to dating or not having money to pay rent in a high-cost-of-living mountain town, aren’t even on my radar. I actually feel silly about the energy I wasted worrying and thinking about myself on such overly dramatic terms. Now I have a baby. And he is more important than any issue I ever had with relationships or money.

That’s one way my life has changed completely.

Every hour of the day — including when I’m sleeping — I’m thinking about what is in my son Will’s best interest. I pray for him to continue growing stronger and gaining weight in the NICU, which is happening every day. He is making great strides after arriving early almost three weeks ago, and I couldn’t be more thankful to the universe. My wish for him is to live a happy and healthy life like so many preemies I’ve heard about who are miracles for their parents.

The stories people have shared with me are always inspiring.

Jenny and Greg, two colleagues of mine with Swift, owner of our paper, recently reached out to me to tell me about their daughter Sophie, who was a preemie 14 years ago. She defied the odds as a preemie and is now as stubborn as she was in the NICU, according to her mom. Her dad, Greg, a fellow Purdue University fan, even stopped at my alma mater when he was in West Lafayette, Indiana, for his high school reunion to outfit Will in the finest Boilermaker attire.

Will’s dad is an Indiana University fan — our rivals — so we’ll see how this pans out during college football season.

I’ve also heard from a grandmother in Carbondale whose granddaughter was airlifted to Denver in the first moments of her life and has since grown to be a strong young woman. Another friend in Carbondale, also named April with the middle initial E., wrote to tell me about her niece born prematurely. She weighed less than 2 pounds at birth, and now has a master’s degree, is married and works for the city of Irvine in California.

Keep the stories coming.

I know I sound cliche, and I don’t mind because I’m a new mom and I earned it a little, but I believe every baby is a gift and a blessing. Babies are also miracles, whether they arrive early, late or right on time. Mine happens to be all of the above for me, and I can’t wait to watch him to grow to 5 pounds and reach a few milestones that will send him home from the NICU and into our loving home. The experience is one 15 million babies and their families experience each year, so I do have company I can find encouragement in through different success stories. And I’ll continue to be inspired with the parents I see come and go from the NICU. They know their lives have been forever changed in parenthood, as ours have. I know I’ll be telling other expectant moms to be ready for the change.

And to love every minute of it.

April E. Clark wrote this column while pumping breast milk. How’s that for a game changer? She can be reached at aprilelizabethclark@gmail.com.

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