I get asked this question from other preemie moms all the time. Ironically I asked it about a year ago to more experienced preemie mothers too. I also have asked it to working moms and full time stay at home moms. Typically I ask this question when I felt as if I couldn't keep going. Their answers gave me hope, just enough that I could face one more day in the NICU, or another day pumping, or just a normal working Thursday.
How do I answer the question now? Now that my preemie is 20 months old, is it easier? My answer to the other mothers is "Yes, it absolutely is easier!"
The answer in my head is, 'It easier because I can't imagine it any harder than where you are right now.' I keep that part to myself, no need to add salt to their wounds.
I talk about how wonderful my daughter is, how she is developing at her own pace and that we are so lucky that most of her problems are only minor. I may tell a funny little story about some cute thing she has recently accomplished.
I don't talk about how every victory has cost us weeks of worrying, hours of reading, a sometimes tears of struggling. I don't tell them how I used to tell my husband almost daily that during the first six months of her life that I thought I was broken. Broken to bits and I thought that I would never be put back together.
I do tell them that we all struggle, that the road is hard but it will be worth it the end. Or I answer a simple question that they asked with a relative quick answer that is positive. I post links for the breast pump I like, or the bottles and spoons that we finally got Kate to use, anything that I think might make their lives a little bit easier. I sympathize with the months of worry, and home quarantine. I joke about how getting mail can be the highlight of your day when you are trapped inside for months with your infant.
I don't go on to tell them, that I did mend myself but now that life has eased up I realize that I did lose some pieces of myself in the weeks before her birth as I laided in labor and delivery, and a huge chunk of security and my self confidence is still tucked away in the NICU. And even though life is so much easier, that I still on my bad days think that the other shoe is going to drop. I don't tell because they don't need to know that. It wouldn't help them now.
I don't tell them the dark side of it all, because the other side of this coin is so worth it. The smiles, the giggles, the reading books in her dads lap are worth everything I lost. Hope is so much brighter and better. The hard times are all around they are living the hard part, but if you can hold onto the glimpse of hope I just know that we can all keep going until it really is easier.