When you hear people throw the word ‘premature’ around when it comes to babies you don’t ever take huge amounts of notice. It’s just a baby that was born a bit early. Nothing unheard of about that really. Until you have one. Until you are in a bed on a postnatal ward after giving birth and your baby is down the corridor. You’re not drinking in those first few moments of your babies life; cooing over them and getting to know them. Instead quite often they are fighting for their lives, learning how to survive when they weren’t ready to come out. Obviously my situation is slightly different and you can read more about that here but the fact still stands. My Little Lady was whisked away before I could even see her. I think I caught a glimpse of her leg whilst lay there on the operating table. She went down the corridor and into an incubator on the neonatal ward. 24 hours later I met her.
My baby girl was 11 weeks premature. Born an hour into my 29th week of pregnancy she was not ready to come out. From that day our premature journey started. So next time someone tells me their baby was premature I will pay more attention because I know how much it means. This is what it means to me.
Incubators – A precious bit of hospital kit. That incubator kept my tiny baby warm, safe and away from me. I was so grateful that she could be in there but only being able to put my hand through the tiny holes to touch her was so difficult. Always having a barrier between us was really tough.
Tubes and Wires – Little Lady was hooked up to oxygen, medication and a feeding tube. She had the works. There were so many wires coming out of her it was frightening, I could barely see her face because of her oxygen mask.
Fear – In the early days of Little Lady’s Neonatal stay she would forget to breath a lot. Alarms would go off, nurses would appear out of nowhere, I would be ushered out of the way. I would watch my precious little bundle go a shade of purple while the nurses patted her back and tickled her feet to wake her up. I saw this happen a lot and it never got easier. Ever.
Neonatal Nurses – These amazing people were my daughters other Mummies. When I couldn’t be there they cared for her and they did what was best for her. I loved that they loved her but I also would often sit there feeling like a spare part; not being able to help my daughter.
Kangaroo Care – This was by far the most amazing part of our hospital experience. My baby should have still been in my tummy, she still should have been close to me. Kangaroo care meant we could get a little bit of that back for a little while. Settling her inside my top so she could hear my heart beating; the sound that she was used to was my only time of peace and calm through the whole process.
Leaving – On the day I was discharged I walked out of the hospital without my babies; for two very different reason. Little Lady was in hospital for 9 weeks and every single day I would visit her but that felt unnaural in itself. I shouldn’t be visiting her, I should be taking her home with me. Being at home without her felt wrong. Walking away from her to go home to Little Man felt wrong.
Guilt – I felt guilty for what had happened to my girls. It took me a long time to be able to look at Little Lady in her incubator and not feel like I was the reason she was there.
There are so many other things having a premature baby means; adjusted and corrected ages, developmental milestones, medication, the fear of bringing her home and of course not knowing what the future holds for her.
However the biggest emotion that having a premature baby stirs up inside of you is pride. She may be small but wow can she fight. All of our little prem babies have fought a battle and there is nothing that can make you prouder as a Mummy to know that that little fighter belongs to you. It didn’t matter how hard it was for me; I only had to look at my tiny baby and I was inspired. Inspired by her courage, her bravery and her strength. Now she is home and the worries and fear are still there and she is still as inspirational as ever.
Today is World Prematurity Day to help raise awareness about what having a premature baby means for not only the baby but also for their family. We need to keep raising this awareness as the babies and their families need as much support as possible. It is not an easy road but believe me, it is a worthwhile one.