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Everyone, meet Skyler Tan

Finally, I’ve drudged up enough courage and energy to blog about this.

Everyone, I’d like you to meet the latest addition to my little family, Skyler Tan Hui Ern, born 5/11/04 at 29 weeks 6 days, three months premature.

So yes, the reason I haven’t had the time to sit down and write a proper paragraph, much less a few these days, is because I’ve been busy worrying sick about Sky, busy expressing milk every three hours, busy visiting her in the hospital everyday, busy working (no maternity leave for the wicked! – sorrylah, small company), busy eating ginger infused food, and just, well, being busy, trying to remain positive as my baby girl clings on to her first month of life with the help of a ventilator, antibiotics, tubes and her mother’s breastmilk.

Why am I blogging now? Because it’s the second day Sky is officially off the ventilator, and for the first time in 43 days, I’m sleeping easy. Today, as I watched her snooze with what I thought was a contented smile on her face, breathing the same air we all breathe because the small duct in her heart had finally closed, enabling it to slow down to a comfortable rate as not to cause her as much energy as it did during her first 41 days of life, I said a small prayer of thanks to God for finally bringing her – and my family – to the end of what I’d thought was a very long tunnel.

Having led a relatively comfortable life, I’d always wondered when my turn would come, to experience a character-building tragedy that would change my life – and attitude towards it – forever. As such, I’ve always been conscious of taking things for granted, be it my job, my relationships, the people in my life.

Never in a million years did I expect it to be this, although the fear of the worst is something a woman with child always feels from the moment her pregnancy is confirmed. When I was lying there in the hospital, knowing that my baby was coming whether or not I was ready, whether or not I liked it, I could not help but wonder if I had taken my pregnancy for granted. I thought about all the cultural superstitions that prohibited me from eating or drinking anything ‘cool’ – how I had shunned most of them. I thought about all the times I’d forgotten to eat my folic acid pills. Against all odds, as steroids coursed through my veins to help my baby’s lungs mature while drugs tried to oppress my contractions and delay labour, I prayed to the Lord to keep my baby safe, and that for whatever good it still might do, I was sorry for whatever I may have done – or didn’t do – to bring about such an early delivery.

Even now, I thank God for this lesson. I may or may not be to blame. Other premmie mothers tell me I’m not so I should not feel the guilt. But when your child lays in the hospital breathing and feeding through tubes, you cannot help but be a little egocentric because after all, she came out of me. I should have all the control, pre, ante and post. As such, only I am to be blamed.

Perhaps this is a blessing in disguise, first and foremost because now, the motivation to breastfeed was, and still is, overwhelming. Premmie babies require breastmilk to grow optimally – and only breastmilk. It is what I can do to make up to my daughter, to start and never stop giving her the best I have to offer. As I told my husband, each time I see her feeding, I imagine sending my troops in, comprising combatants and engineers (essentially antibodies and proteins) to help her ward off all manner of bad infections and to help her finish building whatever that needs finishing.

It is just my way of regaining some measure of control.

To all parents of premmies, I want to salute you. If this is the last of life’s lessons that I have to learn, it has become my most important.

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