My premature baby
So my gorgeous boy is about to turn five. Part of me is devastated because he's just a baby still in so many ways. I know technically he's a boy now and there's no escaping it but I still see the premature baby in him and his vulnerability. I'm sure many mammas will understand this feeling.
His big birthday has brought back all the scary feelings from that time and coincides with seeing the baby charity Tommy's launch a Safer Pregnancy campaign which encourages women to speak to a healthcare professional if they have any concerns at all. We're talking big or small, gut feelings or just because you need reassuring, they will always be pleased you checked. Their campaign 'Always ask', aims to reduce the number of women who end up with serious pregnancy complications or loss.
My son is my first child and after a lovely pregnancy, his entrance to the world was dramatic, traumatic and I don't know if his Daddy and I ever recovered from it.
Babies have their own birth clock!
At 34 weeks, the day of a house move I went into labour. I'm a planner, but with 6 weeks to go, I hadn't packed a bag. Our new house was a mess of boxes, there was no nursery prepared. I was meant to have a water birth at a birthing unit within a hospital. I chose this because I had a huge fear of hospitals having lost family members quite young. The birthing centre seemed calm, looked less hospital like, and my Husband could stay with me.
But a birthing centre is for run of the mill, perfectly timed births with no complications. In short, mine was a bit like this:
- After 13 hours of labour I started to feel something wasn't right. I didn't want to bother people but decided to ask my amazing midwife for another examination from a doctor.
- My doctor came and I was told I was bleeding internally and my baby wasn't breathing properly. I was advised I needed an emergency c-section. I agreed. I didn't know at the time but I was having a placental abruption. This can be life threatening for both of you.
- Within 30 minutes my baby was born, I saw a brief three seconds of the top of his head and he was rushed off to special care.
- For the first 9 hours, I couldn't see him.
Things you notice in special care/NICU:
- There are babies even tinier than yours. It's heart-breaking.
- You can feel that everyone is willing their baby to be the one who gets to go home.
- You get upset when a baby arrives after yours and goes home quicker.
- There aren't enough chairs for every mum to sit down next to their baby's incubator.
- Some staff don't tell you anything so you have to be pushy and ask what you need to know.
- Sometimes you can't touch your little one. My son was on breathing and feeding equipment for his first week.
Bonding with your baby:
I became very worried I wouldn't bond with my son because we couldn't touch. After about a week a very kind midwife let me hold him. She had to carefully rearrange all his tubes so that he could lay on me and not in the incubator. At that moment I felt the rush of love that everyone talks about. The bond was instant, I was so relieved I was capable of being his mamma. So pleased I could hold him as these moments are meant to be. So pleased but so much more fearful of losing him as now I had felt loving him.
The new normal:
We were so relieved to finally bring our baby home and act like a normal family. He was our little fighter. As time went on we were told he was catching up with his peers. However until he was 2.5 years old he was ill almost constantly with ear, nose and throat infections. Some affecting his ability to hear and then speak his first words. Some doctors thought this was due to his weak lungs being born prematurely. Others thought there was no connection. At one point he was put on antibiotics continuously for 8 months.
Thankfully at 2.5 years old, he seemed to turn a corner and now he goes from strength to strength. Sometimes he will amaze me and not catch whatever the latest bug is going round school or nursery. His immune system is doing brilliantly.
Now he's about to turn five and like every parent, with every different journey, we feel like we've had a bit of rollercoaster with our little boy.
Part of me is so desperately happy we are not in that stage of worry about health. Another part of me is mourning the fact that from five I can't really pretend he's still a baby.
He's developing his own interests outside of what we have introduced him to. He has a stubbornness I wish I could tame. An incredible ability to be fearless in circumstances that would scare me. But with it a heightened sensitivity to what happens around him when I think he's not taking notice. His ability to switch languages between myself and his Dad is inspiring.
Obviously, there is so much more to experience and I can't wait to see what he becomes. For now, I'll squeeze him a little tighter and still call him my baby! Of course, I am in danger of becoming an over-protective Italian Mamma with a Mammono (Mother's Boy)!
I do wonder what would have happened if I didn't trust my instincts that night and push for another examination. We sometimes don't listen to our inner voice, but as a pediatrician once told me, "You know your body and you already know your baby". So please let's listen to Tommy's and when in doubt #AlwaysAsk