It’s World Prematurity Day on the 17th of November. It’s a day that will always hold a special place in my heart as I think back to the day that Amy was born, and marvel at how far we have come and how well she has done since those early days.
It wasn’t an easy time, and even now when I think of it I get a lump in my throat. They say that life is what happens when you’re making plans, and that’s exactly what happened to Amy and me just over four years ago now. I hadn’t had an easy pregnancy, and eventually I developed pre-eclampsia. It was the day after what would be my final check-up that my Dr called to say that I had to have my little girl the next day. It was a big shock, because I was only 36 weeks pregnant at that stage, and a bigger shock yet to learn that I was scheduled for an emergency C-section.
Quickly realising that I had to do what was best for my baby, no matter what my plans had been, I checked in to the hospital early on that Wednesday morning to give birth to my first child. I was desperately nervous, but my fear of the unknown was beaten by my husband’s support, lots of prayers, and my excitement to finally meet this little person who had been growing inside me for the past eight months.
It was a tough day, it seemed like the world stood still inside the operating theatre as I waited to hear her first cry. I turned my head to see her, the doctor asked me what her name was and without hesitation I said “Amy.” They brought her to me briefly, lay her next to me and let me kiss her head. Then she was quickly whisked away in what I thought was standard procedure. What I didn’t know, however, was that she had been taken to the NICU and that I wouldn’t see her again until the next morning. What I didn’t know was that I was soon to be heartbroken, but would also soon learn that a mother’s love will always put her child before herself. And I was a mother now, to a precious baby girl.
When I was wheeled into my room I still didn’t know about the NICU situation, my husband had to tell me. She was healthy and safe, but the doctors had her in an incubator on oxygen. My heart broke into a million pieces as I saw pictures of her hooked up to machines inside an incubator, all alone and wondering where her mom was. Because of the C-section I wasn’t allowed to go to her, and this mama bear (even though she was a new mama bear) was both upset and angry. My husband showed me videos of her, and every time I saw her in the videos tears rolled down my face, as I lay helpless in my bed. She had been a part of me for so long and now she wasn’t with me anymore. It wasn’t supposed to be like this, she was supposed to be with me, and I felt as if a piece of my heart was missing.
The next morning getting out of bed after the surgery was excruciating, but it was nothing in comparison to the pain of being separated from her. I made my way slowly to the NICU and entered a strange world where disinfection, beeping machines, worried looking parents and very tiny babies was the norm. I saw my tiny baby lying in the incubator, and as I put just my hand inside she gripped my finger so tightly with her hand, her eyes bore into me and it was as if she was saying “where have you been Mom?” There was no hesitation, this little being knew exactly who I was, and she was already bringing me to task! At just two days old my now fiercely independent daughter was already showing me who she would grow to be one day despite her cruel introduction to the world.
Later that day she was taken out of the incubator, and we got to hold her for the first time. Born at 2.97kgs she was tiny, but still the biggest baby in the NICU. We would learn that the NICU is very routine driven, and every three hours we had to wash her face with distilled water, change her nappy, and then feed her. Being in the NICU she was being fed formula through a tube in her nose, a very distressing thing to see as a mom. I was determined to breastfeed, and so began a very hard journey of firstly pumping every few hours to bring my milk in and then teaching her to breastfeed. It was very difficult for me to be discharged from the hospital and have to leave Amy behind. I remember sobbing in the car park and feeling devastated coming back home without my precious baby. After just one night being away from her I went to stay at the hospital again as a boarder so that I could be closer to her. After five days in the NICU the doctors were happy with her weight gain and that she was feeding well and she was finally discharged. We felt blessed to be leaving after such a short stay, with so many of the other babies in NICU having been in the unit for weeks already and still having a long road ahead of them.
I felt I had been robbed of my birth experience, of being able to hold and feed my baby when she was just born, feelings that still bring me to tears today. But I do understand that I was blessed to have my baby born healthy and born at a hospital where she had the very best care, especially when I couldn’t be there with her. To other moms whose babies are born prematurely, I want to say this, you are stronger than you think, and you will get through this! Even though you have only been a mom for a few hours or a few days, you will love that little one more fiercely than you could ever imagine, and you will do your best to overcome any hardships along the way to bring your baby home safely.
This Friday on World Prematurity Day I will wear purple to honour and support all preemie babies and their moms and dads. I will wear purple as I have done for every year since Amy was born, to remember both the tough times and the happy times, and to celebrate her amazing achievements and the fact that she has never let being a preemie slow her down.
Get involved! You can buy a sticker from selected Toys ‘R Us stores or directly from the Newborns Groote Schuur Trust for R10, and also wear purple on 17 November to show your support for World Prematurity Day. How does it help? In addition to creating awareness and showing your support, if you wear purple and share a picture with Pampers they will donate 10 nappies to the Newborns Groote Schuur Trust. If you wear purple and your sticker in the picture you share Pampers will donate a further 10 nappies to the trust.
I’ll be wearing purple and my sticker on World Prematurity Day this Friday. Will you?
This post was sponsored by Pampers.