Today is World Prematurity Day. It’s a globally recognised day that aims to raise awareness of preterm birth. A time to learn more about the experiences of mums who give birth before 37 weeks. By sharing their stories, together we can ensure that these mums can stay connected, informed and supported.
Pregnancy can be such an exciting experience. From the moment you see the second line emerge on the pregnancy test, sharing the news with your friends and family, posting photos of your growing bump, and tracking the weekly size of your baby from a sweat pea to a watermelon.
You’re reading pregnancy books, planning your baby shower, buying (way too many) cute little baby clothes, nursery furniture and accessories, and feeling those little kicks for the first time.
So many beautiful milestone moments and memories over those nine incredible (and somewhat uncomfortable, can-no-longer-see-my toes, I need to pee…AGAIN?!) blissful months. All leading up to the big day: the birth of your baby.
But what if you went into labour early?
What a premature birth experience is really like
What if you hadn’t finished reading the books, the nursery was only half set up, the cot was still in its box, and your hospital bag was nowhere near packed. Your baby shower was still a few weeks away, and your maternity leave wasn’t scheduled to start for another six weeks. You had only just entered your third trimester, and at 29 weeks your baby was roughly the size of a small butternut pumpkin.
What would your baby’s start to life be like?
What would your birth experience and first few days as a mum be like? Could you imagine being discharged from the hospital while your baby was still there, under the care of someone else? Sent home to sit alone in your empty nursery, expressing breast milk every few hours, unable to drive while recovering from your emergency cesarean and having to rely on someone to drive you to a hospital far from home. Visiting your baby once or twice a day, only able to spend 1-2 hours with your newborn and seeing them so fragile and small.
This is the reality for 1 in 10 pregnant mums.
Behind the confronting and heartbreaking sight of your newborn connected to tubes, cords, and large noisy machines, behind the team of doctors, nurses, midwives and unfamiliar medical terms and endless acronyms, there’s you. A mum feeling helpless and overwhelmed.
Thrown into a world that you never even knew existed, let alone imagined, you feel robbed of the beautiful first mum experience you’d always dreamt of and your whole world is turned upside down. Having a premature baby is an incredibly harrowing and isolating experience.
But you are not alone.
Every year in Australia around 48,000 newborn babies require the help of a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) or Special Care Nursery (SCN). 27,000 of these babies are born premature.
Having a baby born premature or sick can be an emotional rollercoaster and as your baby remains in hospital for weeks or months on end, it is common for parents to feel a range of complex emotions. At different times parents may experience a combination of powerful feelings, such as; fear, guilt, anxiety, isolation, sadness, anger, confusion, and disappointment.
There’s always support available.
For families, the experience of having a baby come into the world not as expected is life-changing. Without support, this overwhelming and traumatic experience can have lifelong effects on the emotional wellbeing of these miracle families. It affects the entire family unit.
Where to find support
Miracle Babies Foundation is Australia’s leading not-for-profit organisation that supports premature and sick newborns, their families and the hospitals that care for them.
Since 2005, Miracle Babies has been passionate in developing and providing vital programs and resources to support and enhance a family’s experience from a threatened pregnancy, hospital journey with a premature or sick newborn, the transition to home and beyond.
Need support? NurtureLine is a free 24hr family support helpline for these families. Call 1300 622 243 or visit https://www.miraclebabies.org.au
If you or anyone you know would like more information about Miracle Babies Foundation, including the support, resources, and information available for parents of a premature or sick newborn, please visit: https://www.miraclebabies.org.au/