Being a working mom is the most amazing thing, but sometimes when life gets in the way, it could be too overwhelming. Whenever I reach the brink of a meltdown, I always think back to the first few days and months of my little preemie’s life. She was born at 26 weeks, weighing 1 pound 7 ounces. Her start in life was extremely challenging and many people admired her fight to survive. The odds were stacked against her, but as the days turned to weeks and months, and she was growing in front of my eyes, I began to have the sense that she doing better than surviving–she was thriving! So in the middle of everyday life chaos, those preemie moments always manage to help me regain my center.
My daughter’s will to live was a prescription for how to live life to the fullest! She changed my perspective about life, and as a working mom and physician, I am more confident about my ability to manage anything and everything. Here are the four life lessons from a micro-preemie:
1. Dream Big. Doubt the doubt, embrace the wonder, and believe the sky is the limit. Even when the going was really tough for my daughter, she made me disregard the grim statistics. What initially seemed impossible, became improbable, and then her survival became inevitable.
2. Be present. It made the ordinary world become more interesting and wonderful. Things that most often seem common, routine and boring became fascinating and something to appreciate. Instead of worrying about or retreating from chaos, I’ve learned to own the present moment and embrace its beauty. Instead of focusing on all of the tubes and machines, being mindful of the present moment helped me to focus on her beauty—she had blonde highlights, her velvety soft pink skin, and her long fingers that she inherited from me.
3. Have gratitude. Be thankful for everything big and small! I am thankful for my daughter’s life. It is because of her that I’ve come to discover my true strengths. I don’t take for granted the love and devotion of family and friends. I am especially thankful for the dedication of her medical team who spent day and night to care for her as if she was their own.
4. Do self-reflection. Self-reflection can shift your mindset, increase positivity in your life, and discover a greater connection to yourself. By examining my own thoughts and feelings I released the guilt I once had about my body failing my baby (due to severe pre-eclampsia) instead of letting it consume me. I have a renewed sense of self—I am no longer a passive participant in life; instead, with each experience (positive or negative), I’m finding personal growth. Overall, my preemie taught me how to slow down and pause. With the principles of gratitude, introspection, mindfulness, and believing in miracles, harmony emerges. Going at our own pace, learning to recognize our limitations, appreciating our progress, we weave the lessons into the fabric of our daily moments and what emerges is a tapestry of a beautiful life. When we finally understand this, we can balance demands with pleasures, work with play, activity with rest, and motherhood with career.
Carina Hopen, MD is a practicing Family Medicine Physician in the Pacific Northwest. In her spare time, she enjoys teaching Tai Chi and art classes. Here website is thrivingmamamd.com, and she can be followed on Instagram @thrivingmamamd.