When Harry was born and taken to the neonatal unit, I experienced some very strange emotions and feelings, that I had not experienced after having William.
I had gone from being pregnant and expecting a healthy baby to suddenly having my hopes and dreams shattered.
Being the "control freak" that I am, it was very strange to have my newborn baby taken away and be cared for in his early days by a) someone I'd never met, b) away from my watchful eyes, c) carrying out procedures I had never heard of and didn't understand.
It was very strange. I wanted to see my baby. To hold him. To take him in, his smell, his face, his sounds.
Not just that, but the fear of what the outcome might be. Waiting for those three hours to learn the prognosis for our son was a strange time. Hoping for the best. The not knowing.
This experience is not exclusive to parents who give birth to a baby who has experienced a birth trauma. Parents who are thrown in to the world of premature babies experience the same emotions.
So as a "neonatal user" I have become a member of a wonderful group of parent, SNUG, at Exeter's hospital. (Supporting Neonatal Users and Graduates). Since being a part of this group I have had my eyes opened to a new view on parenting: the premature baby parenting. Tomorrow is the World Prematurity Day and after meeting some wonderful parents of premature babies I thought I would do my bit by spreading the word about premature babies.
What a lot of pregnant women don't realise is that having a prem baby could quite easily happen to them. 15 million babies each year are born prematurely, and 60,000 of those are in the UK. That is a lot. Please take a look at the Bliss website with more information about World Prematurity Day and what they are trying to achieve.
These mothers are thrown into a crazy world, and to help you understand a view point of how that feels I have selected a few birth stories from the blogs that I read for you to see the birth stories of a few premmie mums. I hope you will have a read, these women write so well and each of their stories is fascinating, emotive and they are so brave to share their stories with others:
A lot of people say to me "wow you are so strong", "you are so brave", "I couldn't do what you're doing".... well, the strength I have is similar to the strength required by premmie mums. Watching their baby, day after day, hoping for the best, and really taking a new perspective on life. I had to have strength for Harry and sadly he didn't make it, but there are many mothers who have to keep that strength going for their babies, day after day, week after week.
I admire these mothers so much. Motherhood isn't easy at the best of times, and most mums take for granted the wonderful feeling of being able to take their babies home, and to watch them sleep in their moses baskets and to feed them yourself and change them yourself, rather than watching someone else do those things or to have to ask permission to hold your baby.
Then, as these babies are born too soon, this often means the baby won't have fully developed, and that they might have ongoing health issues. I was shown this:
A great graphic that shows development of organs based on gestational age. Note that the brain, eyes, and lungs take the longest to develop.
When a baby is born prematurely, these processes are interrupted and must continue to develop in an unnatural environment; the wired world of the NICU. It can be so hard to comprehend but it's important to understand that even though the preemie may look like a smaller, perfectly formed little baby, there is a lot of development that still must happen.
So on World Prematurity Day: Give a thought to those many mothers whose baby are/have been on the NICU and have a completely different experience of being a new mum. I take my hat off to you all xx