I have written a lot about how having a premature baby effects them and you not just during neonatal but long into the future so this World Prematurity Day I wanted to focus on the positivity that can be found in prematurity. It may seem a crazy thing to say but positives really can come from even the most difficult situations and for a preemie parent I think that’s an important thought to hold onto.
- A new appreciation for life
For me having my twins 9 weeks premature made me see life in a whole new way, it sounds cliche but once home with my little miracles I felt like I had a brand new appreciation for life and how fragile it really is. I soaked in the small things which I had always taken for granted and I treasured the everyday moments that I used to see as boring or monotonous.
I remember standing and ironing in my kitchen with blues playing on the radio, my twins asleep in their moses baskets and my eldest son watching a film and I felt more happiness and contentment than I could have put into words. I would never have seen the beauty in that moment of calm and normality if I had not spent five weeks separated from my newborn babies and wracked with guilt for leaving my toddler to visit the hospital on a daily basis.
At the time I remember feeling that this must be how someone who has had a near death experience feels accept for me the near death experience had not been my own but that of two unmeasurably precious lives I had created and grown. Every single day in those first few months felt like a gift and although I was struggling to come to terms with what we had been through and how I would manage with premature twins and a two year old I was also overjoyed that my children were alive and with me where they belonged.
Having a preemie opened my eyes to what is really important in life – family and health.
I also believe that experiencing the anguish of premature birth made me a more compassionate person. I don’t think I had ever been an overly selfish person but like many others I was caught up in the rush of day to day life and I often didn’t see or perhaps didn’t have time to see other people’s pain and struggles. After living through neonatal, twin one’s RSV and post traumatic stress symptoms I made a point of trying to always see beneath the smiles of those I love. I listened a little more intently to what they were saying, and what they weren’t and I put myself out for them because I knew first hand what a difference an unexpected visit or a reassuring text could make.
I found a sisterhood of women who understand exactly what it means to be a preemie parent, who understand the fear and the sadness and the anxiety and who support each other whether face to face or on forums or support groups. I wasn’t fortunate enough to have access to a support group but speaking online to women who had been through the same as me and who would take the time to share their story and experiences helped me through some truly difficult days. The kindness and support women can give to strangers was something I had never experienced outside of my friendship group before I became a preemie mum and it is something I treasure.
- A voice
My experiences in neonatal and after made me feel I had nothing to lose in giving a voice to the fears and struggles I was feeling inside and seeing the solidarity between preemie mum’s drove me to start writing An Ordinary Mummy. When you have feared your child may not pull through the thought of being judged for something you write or say seems insignificant especially when saying it may help other preemie mum’s know they aren’t alone. I became a more courageous person following my twins birth and although it’s impossible to stop caring completely what others think of us I am now pretty damn close.
Every preemie mum knows that neonatal and raising a preemie is a test of endurance and strength, especially in the first few months. You are pushed to within an inch of your sanity and you often feel alone and isolated. It is absolute hell to live through and indescribable to a non preemie parent but it showed me and it should show you just how strong you really are.
If you had asked me if I could ‘cope’ with having a preemie I would have said no, but I did it, I survived and so did they, my marriage survived and prospered and my toddler remained a happy well balanced little boy. Yes I struggled more than I knew possible and I am still processing things twenty one months on but making it through gave me the biggest sense of achievement and self belief.
I wish that no-one would ever have to go through premature birth again, I wish that no-one had to be separated from their baby or faced with frightening situations and health emergencies again but that isn’t within my or your power to do. Unfortunately an estimated 15million babies will be born prematurely each year around the world with 80,000 being born in the UK. Parents will endure, they will fear, they will struggle and we must do everything in our power as women and fellow preemie mothers to support them and when they are safe and home and processing their individual journey we must help them see the positives because they have to know how unbelievably amazing and strong they are.
Even from pain and darkness hope and light can grow.