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When Life Doesn’t Go as Planned: Healing after Having a Baby at Twenty-Three Weeks

We are coming up on five years since having a baby at twenty-three weeks gestation.  Every year, my processing takes off another layer from the pain of that situation. My scarcity mindset hinders me from grieving to the true scale of where I need to, but I’m working to heal that part of my thinking.

Every year I tell myself; it’s time to stop grieving a life you didn’t lose. It’s time to work on being thankful. Every year, like clockwork, my body starts to remember the feel of the air, the smell of the summer, and I’m transported back to that time when I lost all control of the ship I thought I was driving.

What does Scarcity have to do with Trauma?

Scarcity leads me to believe it’s time to stop. You have used your emotional tokens, and now it’s someone else’s turn to take them.  Like there is some magical emotional bank, and by me spending my tokens someone else has to “stuff” their feelings until payday.

Since my daughter was born, I’ve noticed emotional scarcity all around me. 

Often the topic of premature babies comes up, and one mom pipes up, “Well my baby was so-and-so weeks early.” Wait for gasp and empathy.  

Then it will come up that I also have a premature baby, “Oh how early?” 

The emotional chips are on their side. 

We are playing emotional poker and they are running the table.

“23 weeks.” Mic Drop.

Shock and awe.

Slide the chips my way.

I hate this exchange. It feels horrible.  All of the sudden I’m sitting there with loads of coins and I want to scream, this wasn’t my hand. I didn’t want aces!

Spending time with my daughter when she was three months old (around 35 weeks gestation)

Here are some Things that I’ve been doing to Help Myself Heal from the Trauma of Having a Baby at Twenty-Three Weeks:

Sought Professional Help

Talking to a licensed therapist was very crucial to my healing journey. They were able to identify what I was feeling and helped me work through the things I needed help navigating. They put words to my emotions and allowed me to understand the severity of what I was feeling.

Told My Story, Even When It Hurt

Verbally processing is an important part of healing. Learning to tell your story to others will not only help you process but also bring others alongside you to help them know how to be there for you.

Kept In Touch With Friends

Initially, I didn’t want to be around many people. For the first few months my daughter was in the NICU, I didn’t talk much. As time went on, I knew I needed to re-engage, so finding safe, dependable friends who would listen to me was very important. I needed to be able to let someone know (even years later) that I was not okay.

Allowed Myself A Creative Outlet

Every year, for her birthday we throw her a large party. I spend many weeks crafting, processing, and growing in my healing around this time. It’s a raw and open time every year, so I always structure July to have a lot of open space. I give myself grace when I need it, and I’m honest with people when I’m not doing alright.

Having a baby at twenty-three weeks into my pregnancy changed our lives forever. Before our daughter was born, I didn’t even realize babies could be born that early. Five years later, she is alive and doing much better than the doctors anticipated. It’s still difficult as we maneuver around all of her therapies and needs.

We really never know what’s coming. I spent hours researching the best way to potty train and what sunscreen is the best for your child. Ironically, I had no idea about things like cerebral palsy, bradycardia, isolettes, and more medical jargon than I care to admit that I know.

Since we can’t know what will happen, it’s helped me to know how to react to things I don’t anticipate. Finding therapeutic outlets helps me grow in my healing process. Although our stories will not be the same, I hope you will be able to find healing and growth in your own life.

If you’d like to know more about Ava’s journey, you can find her facebook page here.

Carissa Coghlan

Carissa Coghlan is the mother to three beautiful children, seven and younger. She stays at home full time and homeschools her oldest son. She loves drinking coffee, crafting and organizing her home. She grew up in the bay area of California, and will always feel most at peace standing on the beach hearing the waves crash onto the shore. She has a podcast, called Creating Coghlans, where her and her family are striving to live a more intentional life, filled with more understanding and grace.

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