So much of the ‘normal’ birth experience is stolen from parents of premature babies. On World Prematurity Day we’ve teamed up with Pampers to raise awareness of the different journey through NICU
…fear. One of the overwhelming emotions you’ve told us you feel. Seeing your baby for the first time in an incubator, covered in wires, surrounded by bleeping machines, face covered by breathing apparatus… this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. What happened to the birth plan? For me, like many parents of premature babies, I watched my babies being whisked away to be resuscitated in the neonatal unit.
…finding a new hero. Watching my babies struggle and fight to put on weight, get over infections, breathe, grow, and eventually thrive filled me with awe and respect for their strength. They really are my heroes.
…a rollercoaster ride. As parents on the unit we’d often say it was one step forwards then two steps back. One day you’re celebrating your baby coming off oxygen and the next she’s back on CPAP because of an infection. The ups and downs are emotionally gruelling.
…changing your first-ever nappy through portholes. One of the most wonderful times in NICU was changing my daughters’ nappies and doing their ‘cares’ as it made me feel like a real mum. Six years ago I bought the smallest nappies available – Pampers size 0 – yet even they needed folding over and reached up to their armpits. I was really pleased to hear that Pampers has created a new range for babies weighing less than 1.8lb (800g) called the Pampers Preemie Protection Range and pledged to donate 3 million nappies to neonatal units around the UK & Ireland.
Since the launch of Pampers Preemie nappies, 61 of the 208 neonatal units have received their packs, with over 100,000 free nappies donated to neonatal units across the UK and Ireland.
…learning a new language. You quickly learn to ‘speak’ NICU and get your head around the acronyms. From NGT to CPAP via NEC, PDA, EBM and ROP, I can still remember them all six years on. To this day, I get asked if I’m a medic when I take my daughters to appointments. Nope, I’m a NICU mum and I know too much.
…celebrating the baby steps. In NICU it’s the small stuff that matters. I waited two weeks before I could have my first cuddle with my youngest daughter and I will forever cherish that moment. I remember the first day they were able to wear clothes, how every gram gained felt like a huge success, and going up a nappy size deserved a fanfare. Reaching these premature milestones meant they were one step closer to coming home and becoming mine properly. Here at The Smallest Things we love these cards created by Pampers and Bliss, which will be distributed for free to neonatal units across the UK .
…#NotMatLeave I found out weeks later that my maternity leave had started the day after I gave birth three months early. So those 197 excruciating days spent on the NICU all counted towards my maternity leave, meaning I had very little time at home before I was expected to return to work.
…having two ages. The innocently asked playgroup/bus-stop/passing-time-in-a-queue question I learned to dread: how old is she? No simple answer without a long story. She has a birth age and a corrected age. It’s complicated.
…Not over when you walk out of the NICU doors. Shortly after the euphoria of finally leaving the hospital and going home, comes the realisation that it’s not really over. Frequent medical appointments, hospital readmissions, and uncertain long-term outcomes are the reality for many NICU parents. It’s unsurprising that 63% of mums experience anxiety after being discharged from the neonatal unit. Almost half of premature babies have ongoing medical difficulties after leaving hospital.
In support of Bliss’ social media campaign, tell us what #PrematurityIs to you below or on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #PrematurityIs and tagging Pampers. For every story shared, Pampers will donate £1 to our friends at Bliss!
Pampers has donated the fee for this post to The Smallest Things.