Today is World Prematurity Day which takes place every year on November 17th to raise awareness of premature birth and what it means for the babies and their families. I’m going to be really honest, this day probably passed me by until last year. I think unless you have experience premature birth or are close to somebody that has you cannot even begin to imagine what goes on behind those Neonatal ward doors. Bliss, an amazing charity for babies born prematurely are asking this year what #PrematurityIs and that is what I want to talk about today. My daughters were born at 29 weeks and 1 hour, sadly one of them didn’t make it. My other daughter was whisked into an incubator on the Neonatal ward and she stayed there for 9 weeks.
There are so many things prematurity is to me but the main one is fear. There is no greater fear that I have ever experienced than the first time I went to visit my little girl. As I was wheeled onto the Neonatal ward 12 hours after my c-section, the fear was overwhelming. She was tiny, weighing only just 3lbs. I couldn’t see her face because of the huge mask that was on to keep her alive. Her perfect baby skin had already been pierced numerous times to give her life saving drugs and to help keep her closely monitored. Her tiny chest was puffing in and out and in that moment I didn’t think she was going to make it either. Your mothers instinct is to scoop her up and hold her tight, make her better somehow but it wasn’t until 3 days after that that I was able to hold her. I tucked her into my top and she nestled in happily. We were connected to so many machines but in that moment a little bit of hope sparked and I held onto that tiny bit of hope for 9 weeks. Prematurity is hope too. It is looking around the ward at the other babies and seeing them improve even when it feels like yours will never do it too. It is watching parents finally take their babies home and hoping and wishing that one day that will be you.
Prematurity for me is also certain noises and smells. The smell of the handwash I used as I entered the ward every day to wash my hands before I could put my hand through the incubator window to say good morning to my girl. The smell of the medicine that she was given through her feeding tubes. The beeps of the machines attached not only to my baby but the other babies too. You begin to watch them all hoping that none of them get louder or turn red because then you know the nurse will be coming in, you will be moved aside and they will be reminding your baby to breath with a little nudge and massage of their tiny heart. The noise of the syringe wrappers opening when it was feed time again as I nervously drew back the contents of my daughters stomach through the feeding tube to check it was in the right place before I gave her her 1ml of milk.
Prematurity is amazing Neonatal nurses too. These people really are amazing. They give the round the clock care that us as parents desperately want to give our babies but can’t. You have to go home to rest, to be with your other children, to shower. You cannot be there all the time like you want to be and those nurses take over for you. Yes they cover the medical side of things amazingly but they don’t just do that. They love the babies, they shower them with cuddles. they wash them gently and they stand at incubators for hours holding a syringe in the air attached to a feeding tube to give a gravity feed. They happily answer the phone to you at 3am when you are expressing milk in bed at home and you need to hear that your baby is okay. They ring you when they think that there is something you need to know. And they hug you when you finally leave with your baby and shed a tear with you as you take your tiny bundle into the fresh air for the first time. The nurses on our Neonatal nurses were some of the most caring and understanding people I have ever met, they went above and beyond for us knowing what a difficult time this was for us not just because of Little Lady but because of her twin sister too.
Prematurity is so many more things too. Premature birth is a frightening experience to go through. It’s not how you imagined it would be but my Little Lady is living proof that you can leave it behind you even though I think the memories stay with you forever. Please support World Prematurity Day today.