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The Confession of a Preemie Parent

"Every day I am reminded that my body failed my child."

Next is continuing our "Confessions of a Parent" series, in which we bust through the myth of picture-perfect parenting we see on social media.

Ashleigh wrote in and one sentence particularly grabbed our attention: "Every day I am reminded that my body failed my child."

Ashleigh is mom to a 6-month old baby girl, who was born premature.

And this is Ashleigh's confession:

For those who don't understand:

I get it.

Being the parent of a premature child is an invitation into an exclusive club you never asked to be part of.

I try to be understanding to you. I really am doing my best. Please don't get offended when I, the mother of a premature baby, want to cry every time you tell me "Oh, she's so small."

I know she's small. It's my body that failed her. Every day I am reminded that my body failed my child. I know you don't mean any harm by your words, but they cut like a knife in an already open wound.

There is advice all over the place for the parents of premature babies. What I often can't find, is advice about what to say to the parent of a preemie. So, these are my words to you - the people who haven't ever experienced the pain, the joy, the fear, the amazement, or anything else it means to be the parent of a preemie.

When I take my child in for her well-visits with the pediatrician, I am told how small my child is. When I go to the grocery store to buy a gallon of milk, I am told how small my child is. Please, stop commenting on how small my baby is. Please stop asking how long she's sleeping. Please stop asking if she's grabbing things yet. Please stop comparing her to your full term grandchild who enjoys toys.

I had to call a developmental therapy specialist today. I had to admit, to the state, that I don't know how to help my child anymore. My child is delayed. My child is delayed because I failed her - because my body failed her. I don't need people to constantly remind me how different she is.

My child is beautiful. My child is strong. My child is a warrior. My child is her own person. My child is an individual. Tell me those things. She will grow and develop in her own time.

Please stop passing judgment when I don't want to bring her to large gatherings of people. Yes, I take my child to the grocery store, where nobody will bother asking if they can touch her. Yes, I take my child out to restaurants, where she sits safely in my lap, unable to touch anything on the table that may make her sick. No, I don't and won't take her to a birthday party or a large family gathering where there are children who want to touch and large numbers of family members who will want to touch, coo, and hold. My child is fragile. What is a cold for you or your child could mean hospitalization for mine. What was just a stomach bug for you could lead to surgery for the child I already fought like Hell to keep here. When you have to wash your hands every time you leave the room and enter again, when you aren't allowed to eat near your child for the first weeks or months of their life due to threat of contamination, when you have to look at signs constantly reminding you of how medically fragile your child is, maybe then, we can talk about going places.

This is nothing I ever asked for. This is nothing I ever wanted. But it is my life. I have to embrace it, and I do. There is something beautiful about being the parent of a premature baby. I got to celebrate milestones that seem like mundane things to normal parents. I got to see what a baby looks like before they're big and strong. There is something wonderful and magical about it.

I don't want you to feel sorry for me or tell me you're sorry I have to go through this. There was a time I didn't think my child would survive, yes, but she is here. She is strong. She is willing. She is growing. She is changing. I love her in a way I never knew I could, just like you love your child. I will protect her with every ounce of my being.

This is my life. This is my child. Please don't make her feel different, but please understand that she IS different.

You can hear more from Ashley in the video above. If you're willing to sit down with us and share your story, email next@9news.com.


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