Once upon a time each of the three founders of Hello Mamas found herself feeling isolated and overwhelmed by this gig called motherhood. Christa was a first-time preemie mama who didn’t know anything about premature birth or any mothers of preemies, and so giving birth to her early bird in the middle of a rough New England winter was kind of a shock. We recently had a chat with her about her experiences as a new mom and how they inspired her to want to help other preemie mamas! Read on to see what she had to say!
Why is having a preemie particularly isolating for mamas (and dads, too)?
Having a baby early enough to make a NICU (neo-natal intensive care unit) stay necessary is always scary – even when, your premature baby mainly has issues breathing and eating. There’s all this medical equipment and unfamiliar terminology, and the whole experience is nothing like how it’s described in pregnancy books. No one brought up premature birth at any of my prenatal appointments and I was the first in my circle to have a baby so pretty much everything was unfamiliar. Finally, leaving the hospital without your baby is horrible and not a lot of people can relate to how much it hurts.
Then when you can bring your preemie home (especially if it’s in the winter), you’re not supposed to have a lot of visitors or go out into crowds, which means moms’ groups? Are a no-go. Add to that the fact that you’re hyper focused on your baby’s health, weight, feeding, etc. Staying connected to people is HARD.
How did you cope with all of that?
Honestly, I didn’t cope all that well and went a little nuts. I became extremely obsessed with my daughter’s ability to eat and gain weight, and I cried all the time. I kept a feeding log for her entire first year and we had to go for weekly weigh-ins for what felt like forever. In between those weigh ins I’d sneak into this community room in the local hospital where I knew they had an infant scale and weigh her. Sometimes she’d drop weight and I’d just lose it.
The problem was I really had no outlet for anything I was feeling. I mean, the first time my husband and I even tried to take her for a walk in the stroller she had a breathing episode so I was terrified to try that again for a pretty long time. It wasn’t until she was about four months old and it was springtime that we could go out, and then I started reaching out to friends again but I was super cautious and felt like a lot of people thought I was being too careful about everything.
What would have made your prematurity journey easier?
Definitely being able to find other preemie mamas who lived near me. Our hospital didn’t have a preemie moms’ group and no one was able to point me toward one. I tried googling but had no luck. We did eventually go to some other groups but there weren’t any other preemies so I didn’t really feel like those mothers were dealing with the same things I was dealing with, even though looking back now I can see we had more in common than I thought.
How did your experiences lead you to be a part of Hello Mamas?
I do a lot of work to promote prematurity awareness as part of Graham’s Foundation and the team behind Parents of Preemies Day, and one thing that I see over and over again is moms who are craving local connections but end up finding those connections online. When Meg, Julia and I first started talking about what we wanted in an app I was so excited by the idea that preemie mamas could connect with other mamas of premature babies in their area without having to leave the NICU. Being able to make that connection right there at your preemie’s bedside would be AMAZING. Then when your babies are strong enough to be out and about, you could start meeting up for walks and all the other social stuff that preemie mamas miss out on.
How cool would it be if no mama of a preemie ever had to go through that experience without at least one preemie mom friend in her neighborhood?
For more information about Christa’s preemie journey, check out her interview on the Birth Hour podcast.